A survey recently conducted by HSBC revealed that everyday affordability issues have inspired more than a third of Saudi Arabia’s entire expat community to dream up designs for their departure. Whilst a higher cost of living has been cited as the main component of many an expat’s desire to return back home, the evidence suggests that costs and complications surrounding childcare are predominantly spurring the current trend, with 70% citing these issues as main causes for concern.
Whilst 34% of poll participants reported an array of expat issues that ranged from initial integration right through to schooling fees and everyday residential costs, not all problems were based on daily economics. As well the redundancy of higher wages which are commonly yet unexpectedly swallowed up by higher living costs, expats still have concerns for the safe upbringing and security of their children. But can women in Saudi Arabia really expect to be taken seriously?
Employment opportunities in the Kingdom could quite easily sidestep the application of any perfectly viable candidate who might just happen to be female. Whilst sympathetic, it’s somewhat difficult to take economist Mohammed Shams recent comments entirely seriously. Although Sham’s comments, which featured in a recent Saudi Gazette article, could easily be perceived as being both out-dated and sexist, they perhaps offer invaluable insight into a bigger KSA policy problem; he said:
“Women should work in fields that suit their physical nature and ability. They can become beauticians for example. Even if women are hired as plumbers or electricians, they will need a man to supervise them. These jobs need special tools and machinery and a lot of physical exertion that women just don’t have … the country risks economic uncertainty if it employs unproductive female workers.”
This could be indicative of the kinds of unreported issues that extend beyond Saudi Arabia’s expat population and affect each and every KSA resident looking to make life more affordable. If this kind of dominant-male mentality ultimately dictates the future for any given family, expat or otherwise, Saudi Arabia must surely be asked to reconsider its outlook. Preventing its nationals from realising true progression is one thing, but can the KSA economy afford to alienate expats in the same way?