Saudi to ban men from female accessories' shops

Kingdom took similar measures at lingerie shops to tackle high female unemployment

Saudi Arabia is planning to ban the employment of salesmen at its women’s accessories and abaya (female gown) shops and restrict such jobs to local women within an ongoing drive to tackle high female unemployment rates.

The measure, to be enforced after six months, followed the replacement of men with sales women at all lingerie shops in the world’s dominant oil exporter and largest Arab economy in line with a decree by King Abdullah.

Saudi labour officials, quoted by local newspapers on Monday, said the new move would affect all women’s accessories, abayas and dresses shops but that female perfume and eyeglass shops would be excluded.

“The new rules will be enforced after six months and it will affect all those shops,” the papers said, quoting Fahad Al-Tekhaifi, Deputy Minister of Labor and General Supervisor of Employment of Women in the private sector.

“However, perfume and eyeglasses shops have been exempted from the new policy which would gradually work on feminizing the sector.”

He said the ministry would be working with the private sector to implement the new strategy to provide employment to Saudi women.

“The strategy aims to provide an easy working environment for women, which includes providing a nursery section at malls and also taking care of transportation issues. The strategy will create more jobs for Saudi nationals who will be required to work at nurseries and at transportation companies meant for women.”

He said shop owners need to organize their tasks, adding that major companies have managed to provide an ideal work environment for Saudi women and that foreign companies will have to abide by the rules of the country.

Tekhaifi said ministry teams would be conducting tours around all factories in the Kingdom to ensure implementation of the “Royal Order” to employ Saudi women in jobs that are “convenient and adequate.”

In late 2011, Saudi Arabia began enforcing a royal decision to replace salesmen at its lingerie shops with local women as part of an ongoing campaign to find jobs for its citizens and yield to demands by embarrassed female customers.

Announcing the decision, Saudi labour minister Adel Faqih also warned all businesses involved in the sale of female underwear and cosmetics against allowing men into their shops or employing men along with Saudi women.

The minister said the decision applies to all lingerie and cosmetic shops in the conservative Moslem Gulf Kingdom and stressed that such shops must ensure their interiors will be invisible from outside.

The rules stipulated women hired by lingerie and cosmetic shops must be dressed decently. Shops are also required to hire guards or install security systems inside.

The decision followed an intensive campaign by local women early last year demanding the replacement of salesmen with women at all lingerie shops in the Kingdom, where nearly eight million expatriates live along with around 20 million Saudis.

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.

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