Saudi Arabia: Helping men to help women work


Economics 101: Helping men to help women work in Saudi Arabia.

The issue remains complex, and perceptions about how socially acceptable it is for women to work surely play a role.

Saudi Arabia has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world.

The government recently took a step toward raising that figure by legally allowing women to drive. Yet the issue remains complex, and perceptions about how socially acceptable it is for women to work surely play a role. A new study shows that Saudi society is changing faster than people think, and that simply demonstrating to men how supportive other men are of women working can make a significant contribution to female labour force participation.

Economists Leonardo Bursztyn, Alessandra Gonzalez (both University of Chicago, US), and David Yanagizawa-Drott (University of Zurich, Switzerland) conducted field research in Saudi Arabia for a report, sponsored in part by the kingdom’s Human Resources Development Fund, aimed at improving our understanding of women’s low contribution to the labour force. Saudi Arabia’s laws and social customs mean that in the case of married women, the husband plays a pivotal role in determining whether or not the woman seeks employment. Accordingly, the researchers focused their study on assessing the views of married Saudi males. They then explored techniques for modifying those views, and investigated the effects of doing so.



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