Saudi authorities have ordered the closure of nearly 100 lingerie shops after they were found to be hiring sales men in violation of a recent decision to ban male workers at such businesses, a newspaper reported on Sunday.
The Labour Ministry has sent a letter to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs asking it to shut those shops after they were caught hiring men during random visits by Labour inspectors checking compliance with the ban.
The decision affects 100 shops which sell women’s underwear and make up through the Gulf Kingdom, Aleqtisadiah newspaper said, adding that the shops would remain closed until they re-design their interiors to take only women.
“The shops will be shut after they found that they are still hiring sales men, who mingle with women,” the paper said, quoting a Labour official.
“We have given them a deadline to re-design their places to prevent any mingling between men and women whether workers or customers.”
Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative Moslem nations, began last year enforcing a decision to replace salesmen with Saudi women at lingerie shops within a drive to find jobs for its fast-growing citizens and yield to persistent complaints by embarrassed female customers.
The decision, which was approved by the Saudi cabinet, followed an intensive campaign by local women in early 2011 demanding the replacement of salesmen with women at all lingerie shops in the world’s top oil exporter.
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 in
2010 but the rate among women was far higher, standing at 26.6 per cent.