Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry revealed that more than 120,000 women had applied for a driving license after female drivers received a nod to begin driving.
Women drivers in the Kingdom marked their first day behind the wheel with revelry and cheer after a decades long rule that prohibited females from driving came to an end on June 24. Earlier this year, the officials estimated that the country could have as much as 2,000 female drivers when the long-awaited ban lifted.
Major General Mansour Al Turki noted at a press conference that the demand for a driver’s license among females “remains extremely high”. Officials are now bringing the infrastructure up to date to cope with this demand.
Saudi has opened six driving schools across the country for women while 40 female road accident investigators will be taking charge in a few weeks. No traffic offense was recorded by the new women drivers on the road on their first day of driving.
The Gulf country’s move to allow women drivers is expected to have a bigger impact on Saudi’s economy than a much-touted listing of Saudi Aramco, experts say. Women drivers are expected to increase the demand for fuel while providing a respite to sagging automobile sales in the Kingdom.
The removal of the ban is part of reforms instituted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in order to offset the fall in oil revenues- one of the main sources of public income. The move is also expected to improve the participation of women in the workforce by providing them the much-needed mobility when looking for employment.
A survey by recruitment website GulfTalent indicated that many Saudi women previously had to settle for lower pay or for positions that did not match their qualification as they were restricted by transport options.
According to consultancy firm PwC, around three million women drivers could receive their licenses and can actively begin driving by 2020. The GulfTalent poll revealed that 82% of women plan on taking a driving license this year.