Why Should Women Drive in Saudi Arabia? Here’s Another Reason: the Economy.

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 28 2013 12:53 PM

Why Should Women Drive in Saudi Arabia? Here’s Another Reason: the Economy.

A Saudi woman and her children get into a taxi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Matthew Yglesias is on vacation.

Over the weekend, brave women in Saudi Arabia protested the country’s prohibition on female driving cars by buckling up and getting behind the wheel anyway. The idea that women driving is somehow un-Islamic has been largely debunked, even by some Saudi leaders within the country. Yet, the government in catering to the wishes of a conservative population (or a portion of it), refuses to issue driving licenses to women, even though there’s no law technically prohibiting it.


Putting aside the clear moral arguments on prohibiting women from driving, there’s another reason—the economy. Giving women in Saudi Arabia the freedom of movement simply to get to work would help boost the country’s economy. According to a survey done by Oxford Strategic Consulting last year, the benefits of more women in the workplace would be significant.

Here’s what they found:

This is a significant economic, social and cultural opportunity. We calculate that raising female workforce participation in KSA to ca. 40% (still lower than most G20 economies) could increase GDP by ca. $17 billion per annum whilst it could add $58bn in revenues to Saudi companies as well as significant increases in productivity, engagement and innovation.

Helping women get to work would be a good start in a country looking to diversify its petro-economy. Saudi Arabia has made some inroads in loosening its restrictions on women in society, allowing them to vote in certain elections, take up leadership roles in the country’s Shura council, as well as providing greater opportunities in higher education.

Once in the workplace, there will still be challenges for Saudi women. Currently, up to 96 percent of women in the country work as teachers in government schools. The government reportedly wants to move women into the private sector, but that poses challenges of its own, as the Financial Times reports, “many small and medium-sized businesses cannot afford to hire women, because of the costs of complying with government segregation rules. These include having a separate female entrance and bathrooms, and a security guard to stop men entering areas designated female-only.”

Giving Saudi women the power to get to work on their own, however, seems like a reasonable place to start.


War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.


It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Use Facebook to Reconnect With Old Friends, Share Photos, and Serve People With Legal Papers

  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?