Saudi: Women can legally drive from tomorrow

And Mr Gasnier says that the “very difficult” conditions that blighted Saudi Arabia in 2017 have continued into this year.

After more than 60 years spent stuck in the passenger seat, 15.1 million women can finally take control of the steering wheel when the ban on female drivers is lifted.

Accountancy firm PwC predicts that the number of women on Saudi Arabia’s roads will swell to three million by 2020.

Thousands of women have signed up for driving lessons as new female-only programmes have sprung up.

However, those hoping for a quick shot in the arm for the Saudi economy – and its struggling car industry – will have to wait.

New car sales in Saudi Arabia fell 22.3% last year to 536,767 vehicles, according to Matt Gasnier, founder of bestsellingcarsblog.com, which gathers car sales data from manufacturers around the world.

Saudi Arabia fell into recession last year when GDP fell 0.5% due in large part to weaker oil output.

It may also take some time for enough driving schools that cater solely to women to be set up in Saudi Arabia, though when they are established they will “create a large number of job opportunities for female driving instructors”, says PwC.

While there was no formal ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia women, have been unable to obtain a driving licence. The policy has been in place since 1957 – though that will change on 24 June.

Last year, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a decree stating that the monarchy would start issuing driving licences for women.

A report by the Gulf Research Centre said that lifting the driving ban on women “may help them overcome some of the difficulties they face in accessing job opportunities”.

Probably the biggest knock-on effects from lifting the ban will be on expatriate drivers – mainly from India and Bangladesh – employed by Saudi households for years to transport women and carry out daily errands.

Out of 1.67 million foreign male domestic workers, 1.38 million of those are drivers in Saudi Arabia, according to the most recent official figures.

Abdullah Ahmed Al-Moghlooth, a member of the Saudi Economic Association, estimates that if the number of expatriate drivers was cut by 50% once the ban is lifted, the country could save as much as 20bn Saudi riyal a year on areas such as salaries and work permit fees.

Hala Kudwah, Middle East consulting partner and financial services leader at PwC in Saudi Arabia, says it will “alter spending patterns in the kingdom through increased family income and savings in transportation”.

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