Saudi cosmetic shops to become women-only

Shops told to dispose of salesmen and replace them with women

Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative countries, has told its shops to begin replacing their salesmen with women within plans to feminize the career and tackle festering unemployment in its female community.

A decision which was endorsed by King Abdullah last year was enforced on Saturday and officials said hundreds of inspectors would be deployed to ensure compliance by hundreds of thousands of cosmetics and perfume shops.

The new rule followed the enforcement of a decision early this year to force the Gulf Kingdom’s lingerie shops to sack salesmen and hire only women.

“Many cosmetics and perfume shops have already started to implement that decision while others said they would soon adjust their position,” the Saudi Arabic language daily Sabq said, quoting a Labour Ministry official.

“The decision will ensure thousands of jobs for Saudi women as was the case with lingerie shops, which now hire only women.”

The paper said only Saudi women would be hired by those shops and quoted officials as warning those violating the decision would be fined heavily.

In January, the Kingdom ordered its lingerie shops to start replacing their salesmen with local women in line with a royal decision.

The decision is part of an ongoing drive by the largest Arab economy to find jobs for its fast-growing citizens and it follows a campaign by Saudi women last year to replace salesmen with females at lingerie shops.

Officials said last year they aimed to create nearly 1.5 million jobs for national women through the enforcement of such rules.

The decision followed an intensive campaign by Saudi women demanding the replacement of salesmen with women at all lingerie shops in the world’s dominant oil power. The campaign, which was launched in the local media and Facebook, was dubbed “enough embarrassment” and was supported by many Moslem scholars, intellects and other prominent male personalities.

Saudi Arabia is suffering from relatively high unemployment rate because of a rapid growth in its indigenous population and low economic growth in some years. Another factor is the reluctance of the private sector to hire Saudis as it prefers cheaper and more skilled foreign labour.

Official data showed the joblessness rate stood at 10.5 per cent at the start of 2011 but the rate among women was far higher, standing at 26.6 per cent.

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