Reasons for the Dramatic Increase of Women in the Workforce

Reasons for Dramatic Increase of Women in the Workforce

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been largely a patriarchal society for centuries and by aspect of being a Muslim nation, numerous laws that target women have been in place (Moghadam, 2004). The strict Islam context has mostly been regarded as a deterrent to empowering women in Saudi Arabia. For many years, the Kingdom’s policy on female education has been the one that discourages their education (Fleischhaker et al., 2013). For a long period of time, the overall model of education in Saudi Arabia has been preserving the segregated gender roles where women are accorded the class status that is below their male counterparts. Nonetheless, progress is underway, and arguably, over the past 50 years, more women have joined the labor force.

Reasons for Significant Change in Workforce

The dramatic increase of women in the workforce can be attributed to numerous reasons. These include expanded women rights in the country, growing rates of educated women, and economic empowerments. These elements have worked very well to ensure that women become knowledgeable and respectable in the society. Primarily, it is essential to highlight that Saudi Arabia has yet to give women the chance to compete equally with men (Fleischhaker et al., 2013). In the past, there has been a persistence of women exclusion from the public arena and many other governance positions, which discouraged women participation (Fleischhaker et al., 2013). In fact, until 2002, education of women at elementary, high school or university level stayed under the Department of Religious Guidance despite the Ministry of Education overseeing the schooling of men (General Authority for Statistics, 2016). This move ensured women not to digress from “the known purpose of female” education that aims at making them better mothers and wives. Education is essential for people to shape their knowledge. The government started to repeal the old policy about women’s education and they have been accepted to schools just as boys. Education has assisted women to acquire employment in the areas that were once perceived to be men’s (Jeddah Chambers, 2016). Various universities have expanded areas of study that female students can now pursue, and they encompass disciplines of architecture and law (Zamberi, 2011). Consequently, it is evident that education has played a key role in women’s joining the workforce in Saudi Arabia.

Currently, Saudi Arabia has more employed women than ever. Data gathered from the Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics show that the number of working women has immensely grown and currently stands at 16.6%. The chart below depicts the number of Saudi Arabian women in workforce.

Figure 1. Women in workforce

Source: Saudi’s General Authority for Statistics obtained at


Increased women rights have played a huge role in ensuring more opportunities in the workforce. The country is increasingly abandoning the traditional laws that barred women from taking part in other roles in the society. Through this paradigm, women have been allowed to compete in the same areas as men. The democratic space that women now enjoy has made them financially independent. It has also allowed them to pursue their economic course and participate in governance. Indeed, the increased women rights are the essential factor that has allowed them to take part in the national job market such as in a hospitality sphere and in the areas including other civil servant roles (Moghadam, 2004).

Women’s economic empowerment has largely contributed to their increased presence in the workforce. In the Saudi Arabian society, it is mainly believed that a female’s role is to maintain the family structure. The profoundly embedded and multifaceted nature of the gender disparity in this society must be seen as one of the factors that barred women from getting into labor force (Moghadam, 2004). However, increased investment in the girls’ education has seen many women venture into businesses. In this regard, the number of females has largely increased in the labor force. Saudi Arabian women are now allowed to work in the retail industries and, for the very first time, Saudi Arabian female lawyers have received practicing licenses (Le Renard, 2008). It depicts huge milestones in women’s achievements. Saudi Arabian women are now also employed in the media industry as newspaper editors as well as hosts of TV chat shows (Zamberi, 2011). In addition, it should be emphasized that the future of women in Saudi Arabia is bright. The current effort of the administration to ensure changes in the life of women is vital. Education and increased women rights shall take females to the next level and get women to the labor force.

The dramatic increase of women in the workforce has impacted the economy of Saudi Arabia positively. Women have been able to venture into their own business and have increasingly become entrepreneurs. In this regard, they have created many jobs for other people besides becoming economically independent (Le Renard, 2008). What is more, by becoming educated and financially independent, women have changed the traditional values and government has continued to invest in female workforce (Le Renard, 2008).


To sum it up, there is the dramatic increase of women’s participation in the Saudi Arabian labor force. The research reveals that education, improved women’s rights, and their empowerment are key factors in changing the face of the country’s workforce. Slowly, Saudi Arabia is evolving from a patriarchal nation to an all-inclusive society where both genders stand the chance of being a part of the national workforce. The recent regime has actively supported women in every aspect. In the future, there are chances that the percentage of women in the labor market will grow since the government has a clear framework in this direction.


Despite the steps made, there is still much to be done; women constitute approximately only 16 percent of the total Saudi Arabian workforce. Evidently, more government initiatives in girls’ education, women economic empowerment and policy formulation are required to lower this disparity. In addition, there are still laws governing women’s behavior that must be reviewed to ensure that women fully participate in the workforce.



Fleischhaker, C., Hu, M., Khandelwal, P., McHugh, J., Qu, H., Westelius, N.,  (2013, June 24). Saudi Arabia: Selected Issues. Retrieved from International Monetary Fund:

General Authority for Statistics. (2016). Labour Force Survey: Third Quarter. Retrieved from

Jeddah Chambers. (2016, March 6). Saudi Arabia – Manpower & Employment, Talent Management, and Compensation. Retrieved from

Le Renard, A. (2008). Only for women: Women, the state, and reform in Saudi Arabia. The Middle East Journal, 62(4).

Moghadam, V. M. (2004). Patriarchy in transition: Women and the changing family in the Middle East. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35(2).

Zamberi, Ahmad S. (2011). Evidence of the characteristics of women entrepreneurs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: An empirical investigation. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 3(2).