Saudi Arabia’s labour ministry has shut down six lingerie shops in the capital Riyadh for failing to employ local women. Three other shops were warned in the snap inspection conducted by the ministry in a mall, local daily Al Sharq reported on Wednesday.
“These shops did not comply with the regulations to have only Saudi saleswomen in shops selling lingerie items and accessories,” Saud Al Sanitan, the head of the field teams at the ministry, said. “All shops have been given 14 days to regularise their situations and avoid being shut down,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has launched a massive drive to reform the labour market to boost the chances of its citizens, particularly women, to find jobs and to reduce reliance on foreign labour. However, the drive to employ women has been resisted by conservatives who saw it as a blatant transgression of deep-rooted traditions and social values.
Several groups have been exerting pressure on the labour ministry to reverse its decision to employ only Saudi women in lingerie shops, arguing that it exposed them to several risks. “If I were a Saudi national, I would never ever employ Saudi women in my shop,” the Yemeni salesman told the labour ministry inspectors. There is no authority that can force me to close my shop,” he was quoted as saying by the daily.
Most expatriate salesmen are opposed to the employment of Saudi saleswomen and have been driving them away through their negative attitudes, Sarrah Ahmad, a Saudi woman working in a shop, said. “They are always angry with me and obviously resent my presence in the shop,” she told the daily. “Whenever I ask them a question for instance, they raise their voices and shout in a very strange manner. Their attitude has pushed several Saudi women to quit their jobs. Besides, shop owners force us to work seven days a week, without a day off. Any saleswoman who insists on a day off is fired,” she said.