Saudi women-only lingerie shops from Thursday

All lingerie shops are told to replace salesmen with females staff

Saudi Arabia told its lingerie shops to start replacing their salesmen with local women on Thursday in line with a royal decision to feminize jobs in this lucrative sector, the Gulf Kingdom’s press reported.

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.

The kingdom, the world’s oil powerhouse, was due to enforce that decision in June 2011 but decided to extend the deadline for six months at the request of lingerie shop owners who argued that they need more time.

In a statement carried by local newspapers on Tuesday, the Saudi Ministry of Labour said all lingerie shops in the country must abide by the decision and begin replacing their salesmen with Saudi females.

“The Ministry will conduct inspection drives from Thursday to ensure all lingerie shops adhere to this decision in accordance with Royal orders to feminize all jobs at these shops,” the statement said.

Officials said last year they aimed to create nearly 1.5 million jobs for national women through the enforcement of that decision, which also affects women dress shops at a later stage.

In a letter entitled “important and urgent,” the Riyadh chamber of commerce and industry told all lingerie shops businesses in late 2011 to be ready to start replacing salesmen with Saudi women within one month.

The letter also asked those shops to provide the chamber with details of all jobs available for Saudi women, work timings and the function of each job.

The chamber said its request is in line with a decision by King Abdullah to “restrict jobs at lingerie shops to Saudi women.”

“You are asked to take immediate procedures within one month to replace all salesmen with Saudi women…this decision affects mainly shops dealing in lingerie items, night dresses, abaya (gowns) and read made women clothes.”

The decision, which has been approved by the Saudi cabinet, followed an intensive campaign by local women demanding the replacement of salesmen with women at all lingerie shops in the conservative Moslem nation.

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.