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Saudi women will be hired to work ground service at local airports Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Saudi women will be hired to work ground service at local airports

Women will staff airport check in desks as well as service areas [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 January, 2018

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Women are being hired to work at check in desks in Saudi Arabia's airports, in preparation for the Vision 2030 tourism boost.
Saudi Arabia's main ground services operator has announced its intention to hire women to work in local airports in the country, according to Saudi news outlet Arab News.

Saudi Ground Services Co. (SGS) made it public that women will be joining its training programme in February, in order to operate the check-in desks at airports in the kingdom.

Speaking about the female recruits, SGS director Bassam al-Bokhari, said: "They will be enrolled in an intensive training programme. The programme includes technical training courses such as passenger services, check-in procedures, safety, security, and soft skills courses such as communication skills, customer services skills and time management."

He added that the company had received 10,000 applications online for the programme.

The training programme is a joint initiative along with the kingdom's Human Resources Development Fund and the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, according to the report.

This December, SGS organised a graduate training forum for both young men and women, named "Your Way to the Future", with an aim to recruit fresh graduates to work in service areas King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, the third largest in the kingdom.

The CEO of SGS, Omar Najjar, emphasised his company's support for the Saudi government initiative to "empower Saudi females to become a productive part of society".

The latest moves to include women in mainstream society  come as part of de-facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's "Vision 2030" initiative to modernise the ultra-conservative kingdom and diversify its economy away from oil.

The prince, known as MbS, is visibly making steps to include women in the mainstream working world. It was recently announced that women will soon be able to drive HGV lorries, and begin working in the mining industry.

To boost the flagging economy, the young leader is seeking to harness the country's sizeable young population - the median age of the Saudi population is 27 - by providing economic opportunities at home.
American rapper Nelly recently performed in the Saudi
capital as authorities organise more concerts
and cultural events to boost domestic spending and
enthuse the disillusioned youth [Getty]

The Saudi youth have previously voiced their frustration over the lack of jobs in their home country.

More than half of Saudis are under 25 but the International Monetary Fund noted in 2015, "very high and rising" youth unemployment levels. 

In October 2017, a hashtag that translated as "whether you study or not there are no jobs" spread across Saudi social media.

Focus on developing airport services could likely be connected with Saudi's newly-launched tourism initiatives.

In November, the Saudi tourism chief announced that the kingdom will begin issuing tourist visas in 2018.

The tourist ministry's ambitious plan aim to attract 30 million visitors a year by 2030, up from 18 million in 2016, and it wants annual tourism spending to hit $47 billion by 2020.

The ambitious leader-to-be is also aiming to ramp up domestic spending, in order to give the economy a boost and enthuse the disenchanted youth.

The decades-long ban on cinemas was recently lifted, and various Western music artists have been coming to the kingdom to perform.

However, not everyone in the kingdom is pleased with the leader's forward-looking vision. Last week, authorities had to close a beach resort and temporarily halt cultural events following outrage after a controversial mixed-gender concert took place at the resort, which shows that many in the conservative kingdom are yet to be convinced by modernisation.

The programme of Vision 2030 reforms has also come under fire from human rights defenders, who have lambasted them as a superficial guise of bin Salman's growing authoritarianism.

Agencies contributed to this report

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