Saudi receives 120,000 applications for female driving licences

The kingdom lifted its historic ban on women driving on Sunday



Saudi authorities said they had received more than 120,000 applications from women for driving licences after the lifting of a decades-long ban on Sunday.

Women took to the roads early Sunday to celebrate the historic decision after converting foreign licences earlier this month, while others are training at new state-run schools.

Read: Saudi women take to the roads at midnight as driving ban ends

At a press conference later in the day, officials said 40 female road inspectors would commence their duties in the coming weeks and six driving schools in five cities had been established to train women.

Director general of the Traffic Department major general Muhammad Al-Bassami said no traffic violations were reported on the day the ban was lifted, which saw women drivers greeted with roses.

Many locations also established dedicated female parking spaces, although Bassami said there was no traffic regulation allowing this.

Bloomberg Economics indicated that lifting the ban could add up to $90bn to economic output by 2030 and have more of an impact than the planned listing of state oil giant Saudi Aramco.

“Lifting the ban on driving is likely to increase the number of women seeking jobs, boosting the size of the workforce and lifting overall incomes and output,” said Bloomberg Economics Middle East economist Ziad Daoud.

Among the key benefits could be helping the kingdom achieve its goal of increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22 per cent to 30 per cent.

Daoud said every 1 per cent increase in participation would be equivalent to 70,000 jobs for women a year, while a more active female population could increase economic growth by up to 0.9 per cent.

GulfTalent said in a separate survey that women in the kingdom were expecting new job opportunities after the lifting of the ban including the availability of higher paying jobs requiring travel between offices and work further from home.

Read: Saudi women expect new job opportunities after lifting of driving ban

The company found 28 per cent of respondents planned to drive immediately, 54 per cent in a few months, 12 per cent were still not decided and 6 per cent would not drive.

Other research has indicated women could take longer to get behind the wheel.

Professional services firm PwC said in a March report that just 20 per cent of women in the kingdom are expected to drive by 2020.

Read: PwC says just a fifth of women in Saudi will drive by 2020

A backlog of applicants at the existing driving schools, and a lack of institutions in nine regions to date, may also limit numbers to begin with.