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Saudi Arabia’s labor ministry issued new laws affecting women at the workplace, on Sunday. According to the new rules, only women may work in lingerie and cosmetic stores. Men will be forbidden from entering these type of shops. Such shops have 12 months to employ Saudi women, with failure to do so resulting in closure.

A company’s workforce in the Nitaqat Excellent Zone should be comprised of at least 7% women, with companies in the Green Zone to have at least 5% female employees, companies in the Yellow Zone to have at least 3% female employees, and companies in the Red Zone not required to have female employees at all.

Only women between the ages of 20 – 35 can work under the Nitaqat System.

A factory owner must provide women safe and decent uniforms. Women must work in a women only section. Women work hours at factories must be between the hours of 6 am – 5 pm. While at the factory, women must adhere to the Islamic dress code and their work uniforms. They must not work in a factory office if the number of women is less than 10 in a single shift.

Large department stores will be excluded from the decision based on the separation of males and females in the concerned departments. Saudi female workers will have to register with the labor office and their employers will have to register their pay role of each month.

The Ministry of Labor, Adel Fakieh said the Ministry is serious about implementing these reforms. Mr. Fakieh also said that the Ministry will not lift the ban on work visas to Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers.

Saudi women are definitely joyous about this new rule, seeing winds of change in a deeply conservative country long tied by restrictions for women, from jobs and education to driving.

While on the surface quite small, each of the pending changes, Saudi activists argue, should be viewed as a chipping away at the gender segregation that crushes the employment prospects of most of the kingdom’s more than 10 million Saudi women and drains fortunes from Saudi women and their families.

Sources: zawya, bikyamasr, npr.org

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