Job ad for 30 women train drivers in Saudi Arabia attracts 28,000 applicants


A job advert to recruit 30 female train drivers in Saudi Arabia has attracted 28,000 applicants, high-lighting the scale of pent up demand as the conser-vative kingdom opens up more opportunities to women. Spanish railway operator Renfe said an online assessment of academic background and English language skills had helped it to reduce the number of candidates by around a half, and it would work through the rest by mid-March.

The 30 selected women will drive bullet trains between the cities of Makkah and Madina after a year of paid training.

Renfe, which said it was keen to create opportu-nities for women in its local business, currently employs 80 men to drive its trains in Saudi Arabia, and has 50 more under instruction.

Job opportunities for Saudi women have until recently been limited to roles such as teachers and medical workers, as they had to observe strict gen-der segregation rules. Women were not even al-lowed to drive in the kingdom until 2018.

Female participation in the workforce has nearly doubled in the last five years to 33pc amid a drive by the Saudi crown prince to open up the kingdom and diversify the economy, and women are now taking up jobs once restricted to men and migrant workers.

But the proportion of women working in the kingdom was still around half that of men in the third quarter of last year, at 34.1pc, and female un-employment was well over three times higher than for men, at 21.9pc.

Saudi Arabia is highlighting progress on gender issues at a time of scrutiny in the West over its hu-man rights record, including a crackdown on dissent that ensnared dozens of women’s rights activists and the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.—AFP


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