Saudi Arabia keen to get more women in the workforce

Saudi Arabia is keen to get more women in the workforce, and the Kingdom has already surpassed its Vision 2030 ambition of achieving 30 percent female participation in the labor market. (SPA)
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Updated 06 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia keen to get more women in the workforce

  • Saudi women in tourism and hospitality sectors underline power of workforce diversity, experts explain

RIYADH: Tourism and hospitality in Saudi Arabia are experiencing a remarkable transformation driven by the increased participation of women, thanks to inspirational leaders and strong government action.

This shift is significant considering that tourism is one of the few global industries where women already constitute the majority of the workforce.

Saudi Arabia is keen to get more women in the workforce, and the Kingdom has already surpassed its Vision 2030 ambition of achieving 30 percent female participation in the labor market.

Indeed, the goal has now been upscaled to 40 percent — double the rate seen in 2010, according to World Bank figures.

Tourism and hospitality is seen as a sector where women can thrive, and the Kingdom is working hard to create more opportunities in this area.

According to EHL Insights, just five years ago, Saudi females faced significant barriers when it came to working in hospitality companies, and women had to go to great lengths to convince their families to allow them to pursue education or employment opportunities in this industry.

This has changed thanks to the economic and cultural shifts spearheaded by the Vision 2030 initiative, and according to data issued by R Consultancy Group in March, 45 percent of the sector’s workforce now comprises female professionals – 925,000 workers.

“There are several inspirational female leaders that have helped to strategically shape both the Saudi tourism sector and the regional tourism sector more broadly such as Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud, vice minister of tourism, and Basmah Al-Mayman, regional director of the UN World Tourism Organization,” Anne-Laure Malauzat, partner at Bain & Co. in the Middle East, told Arab News.

She  went on to stress that on the ground in Saudi Arabia, there is a massive presence of women across different parts of the tourism and hospitality sectors, from the architects designing the Kingdom’s key airports, passport control officers, and cab drivers as well as hospitality leaders and tourist guides.

“Examples of these success stories include Sarah Gasim, senior vice president — head of KSA Hotels and Hospitality at JLL — who managed hotel complexes in the past. (She) is a published author and lectured on hospitality, helping to shape future generations in the sector,” Malauzat said.

From Red Sea Global’s point of view, spokesperson Zainab Hamidaddin Al-Hanoof Al-Hazzani told Arab News that women bring unique perspectives, skills, and insights to roles such as hospitality management, customer service, marketing, and event planning, which significantly enhance the overall quality of service and customer satisfaction. 




Tourism and hospitality is seen as a sector where women can thrive, and the Kingdom is working hard to create more opportunities in this area. (SPA)

“Their diverse perspectives, enhanced service delivery, and inclusive workplace contributions are driving innovation and economic growth, making them indispensable to its success,” she said.

Al-Hazzani claimed that women are actively shaping the future of the tourism and hospitality industry in Saudi Arabia, adding: “This is particularly true at RSG where women play a pivotal role in elevating guest experiences, fostering cultural diversity, and contributing to the overarching success of our projects.

For example, our Elite Graduate Program has provided employment opportunities for 250 individuals, with 30 women advancing to management positions.” 

Opportunities and challenges for women in the tourism and hospitality sector 

The tourism and hospitality sector in Saudi Arabia is undergoing a significant transformation, with a growing focus on cultural tourism, luxury experiences, and heritage preservation which presents a wealth of opportunities for women.

Laila Kuznezov, director, Implementation Practice at management consulting firm Oliver Wyman told Arab News that from leadership roles in hotel management to careers in event planning, cultural tourism experiences, and hospitality education, women can leverage their “unique skills and perspectives” to shape the future of Saudi tourism. 

“By empowering women in tourism and hospitality, they are not only creating a more inclusive workforce, but also sending a powerful message to the world. With a diverse pool of talent contributing to the industry, they can create a world-class visitor experience that reflects the Kingdom’s rich heritage, culture tapestry, and forward-thinking vision for the future,” Kuznezov added.

Speaking on the key constraints women face in entering the labor force and securing employment, Kuznezov shed light on how many of the barriers in Saudi Arabia are similar to those faced globally. 

By empowering women in tourism and hospitality, they are not only creating a more inclusive workforce, but also sending a powerful message to the world.

Laila Kuznezov, director, Implementation Practice at Oliver Wyman

“A gender wage gap persists, and women at certain education levels, particularly those with only a secondary school leaver’s certificate, have much lower participation rates than men. A huge opportunity lies in capitalizing on the highly skilled female workforce in Saudi Arabia,” she explained.

The director also noted that: “We need to see more women as CEOs, CFOs, and senior managers across all industries, particularly in highly productive sectors driven by technology and knowledge. Encouraging female entrepreneurship is also crucial. The talent and ambition are there – it’s about providing continued support and fostering a culture that actively supports and promotes women in transformative roles.”

She continued to clarify that the recent rise in female labor force participation is a positive indicator, but the next step is ensuring these women secure high-quality jobs that leverage their full capabilities.

“It is also important to support gains for women at all levels and geographic areas. A key focus in Saudi Arabia is ensuring access to the training and childcare options needed for success, especially for women who have been out of the workforce for long periods of time, are first-time job holders, or have lower education levels,” Kuznezov emphasized.

“Since Saudi women tend to stay closer to their hometowns, geographically dispersed training programs and readily available childcare are crucial to expanding regional employment opportunities,” the director further said.

According to Kuznezov, Saudi Arabia is embracing a progressive approach by developing and enabling regulations to promote new forms of work, such as freelancing, part-time work, platform and gig economy work, and remote working.

“These models offer women increased flexibility and more channels to enter and participate in the workforce, which should contribute to continuing the positive trends of increased participation and reduced unemployment for women,” she said.

Women participation’s impact on Vision 2030

Female participation in the tourism and hospitality sector has helped support the Vision 2030 agenda on multiple fronts, believes Bain & Co.’s Malauzat. 

“From a talent perspective, enabling the sector transformation through their leadership, skills, and contribution across all parts of the tourism and hospitality lifecycle,” she said. 

FASTFACT

In Saudi Arabia, there is a massive presence of women across different parts of the tourism and hospitality sectors, from the architects designing the Kingdom’s key airports, passport control officers, and cab drivers as well as hospitality leaders and tourist guides.

“From a consumer understanding perspective, women globally take an estimated 80 percent of consumer-related decisions so having women represented in the sector is critical to ensure a real understanding of consumers in this space,” the partner affirmed.

She concluded: “From a gender equity perspective, this has been an important contributing factor to helping the Kingdom achieve its overall aspirations for female participation in the labor market nationally.”

From RSG’s lens, according to Al-Hazzani, by actively promoting gender diversity in the workforce within the tourism and hospitality sector, the firm is taking significant strides towards realizing the vision outlined in Vision 2030.

“This initiative aligns seamlessly with the broader objective of cultivating a vibrant and inclusive economy that harnesses the full spectrum of talent and capabilities within the nation,” Al-Hazzani said.

“Recognized as a fundamental driver of economic diversification, the tourism and hospitality sector in particular benefits immensely from the integration of female talent. Their presence not only fuels the sector’s growth but also enhances its competitive edge and long-term viability through delivering an enriched tourism experience and driving innovation,” she added.

The spokesperson justified that by prioritizing gender diversity in the tourism and hospitality workforce, RSG is not only embracing Vision 2030’s ideals but also paving the way for other sectors to do the same.

“Our dedication to inclusivity not only strengthens our economy but also reaffirms our collective commitment of creating a more prosperous and equitable society,” Al-Hazzani concluded.


Kingdom and Airbus can fly high together, says company chief

Updated 16 July 2024
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Kingdom and Airbus can fly high together, says company chief

  • $19 billion aviation agreement ‘will help Saudia to grow and also help the country to achieve its Vision 2030’
  • Saudia signed a deal with Airbus in May for 105 aircraft, the largest agreement in Saudi aviation history

HAMBURG: Saudi Arabia and the aircraft manufacturer Airbus can build on their $19 billion aviation agreement to expand their partnership even further, one of the company’s top managers told Arab News on Tuesday.

Airbus and Saudia airline signed a deal in May for the supply of 105 A320neo and A321neo planes, the largest aircraft agreement in Saudi aviation history.

Now Saudi Vision 2030 offers opportunities to develop the partnership, said Wouter van Wersch, president in charge of Airbus’s international operations. “I think it touches on a lot of very important points,” he said. “The whole sustainability angle, everything that the Kingdom wants to achieve in terms of energy, but also transportation, the NEOM opportunities.

 

“I think the future, airports, I think it really covers a lot of topics. And, you know, we need countries to take the lead on this.

“We, as Airbus, have a very clear strategy on what we want to do in terms of sustainability. You know, we work on innovation, bringing the best aircraft to the market today. But also tomorrow. We look at hydrogen. We look at sustainable aviation fuel. So, there’s a wide array of topics that need to be addressed and to be successful.

“You know, we've been in Saudi Arabia for a long time. We have a strong local team, of course, in commercial aircraft, but also in helicopters and in defense and space. So look, we want to do more. We are very committed to continue to work closely with the Kingdom and we’ll have to see what happens.”

 

The acquisition of the A321neo aircraft will help Saudia to grow, van Wersch said. “We have had a fantastic relationship with Saudia for many years. And I think this is a new confirmation of the partnership,” he said “You know, the first aircraft that we brought to Saudi Arabia was in the 1980s. So, it’s been a long while and we’ve gone from strength to strength.

“I think Saudia has a great vision. I think the Kingdom has a great vision on what it wants to achieve by 2030 and bringing this fantastic A321neo aircraft will really help to contribute, to satisfy and to realize this vision.

“I think the Vision 2030 of the country needs more transportation. And Airbus is a leader in aviation. So, we are very keen to contribute and look forward to great times together.”


 Aramco to acquire 50% stake in Air Products Qudra’s Blue Hydrogen Industrial Gases Co.

Updated 16 July 2024
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 Aramco to acquire 50% stake in Air Products Qudra’s Blue Hydrogen Industrial Gases Co.

RIYADH: Energy giant Saudi Aramco is set to acquire a 50 percent stake interest in the Jubail-based Blue Hydrogen Industrial Gases Co.

The deal, pending standard closing conditions, will also grant the firm options to purchase hydrogen and nitrogen from BHIG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air Products Qudra.

Saudi Aramco anticipates that its investment will help develop a lower-carbon hydrogen network in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom, serving both domestic and regional customers.

This builds on its efforts to develop a lower-carbon hydrogen business and expand its portfolio of alternative energy solutions as Saudi Arabia steadily progresses to achieve its net-zero ambition by 2060.

After the deal closes, Aramco and APQ – a joint venture between Air Products and Qudra Energy – Aramco and APQ, a joint venture between Air Products and Qudra Energy, are expected to each own a 50% stake in BHIG.are expected to hold 50 percent of BHIG between them.

“We intend to leverage our growing capabilities in carbon capture and storage, as well as our technical expertise in hydrogen, with the ambition to support the establishment of a vibrant marketplace for lower-carbon hydrogen — helping lay the foundations of a future energy system,” Ashraf Al-Ghazzawi, Aramco’s executive vice president of Strategy and Corporate Development said.

He added: “This investment highlights Aramco’s ambition to expand its new energies portfolio and grow its lower-carbon hydrogen business. We believe there are promising commercial opportunities for hydrogen with lower emissions.”

It is also expected to serve the refining, chemical, and petrochemical industries

BHIG is designed to produce lower-carbon hydrogen while capturing and storing CO2 and is set to begin commercial operations in alignment with Aramco’s carbon capture and storage initiatives.

“We look forward to providing our expertise in hydrogen and pipeline operations and supporting Aramco’s need for a reliable supply of lower-carbon hydrogen for domestic and regional requirements,” Samir Serhan, chairman of APQ said.


NASA, Saudi Space Agency sign agreement on civilian space exploration

Updated 16 July 2024
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NASA, Saudi Space Agency sign agreement on civilian space exploration

  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson signed on behalf of the US
  • CEO of the Saudi Space Agency Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi signed on behalf of the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the US signed a framework agreement on Monday to increase cooperation between the two countries on civilian space exploration and research, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson signed on behalf of the US, and CEO of the Saudi Space Agency Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi signed on behalf of the Kingdom.

The agreement was titled “Framework Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Cooperation in Aeronautics and the Exploration and Use of Airspace and Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes.”

It will establish a legal framework to facilitate and strengthen collaboration between the two countries.

Abdullah Al-Swaha, chairman of the Saudi Space Agency, said that the agreement represented a “turning point in the Kingdom’s journey toward building a strong and prosperous space sector,” and noted that it reflected Saudi Arabia’s commitment to progress and innovation in the field of space travel.

The agreement also acknowledged the importance of the Artemis Accords — which the US signed in October 2020 and Saudi Arabia signed in July 2022 — reflecting their commitment to the transparent, safe and responsible exploration of space, a State Department statement said.


Saudi minister holds talks with Qatar, Hungary, and Solomon Islands on sustainable growth

Updated 16 July 2024
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Saudi minister holds talks with Qatar, Hungary, and Solomon Islands on sustainable growth

RIYADH: A Saudi minister held high-level meetings with officials from Qatar, Hungary, and the Solomon Islands to discuss using sustainable development goals as a key driver of growth.   

On the sidelines of the annual High-Level Political Forum 2024 on Sustainable Development held in New York from July 8 to July 18, the Minister of Economy and Planning, Faisal Al-Ibrahim, met with Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al-Khalifa, president of the Civil Service and Government Development Bureau and secretary-general of the National Planning Council in Qatar. 

He also held talks with Hungary’s Minister of State for Environment and Circular Economy Aniko Raisz and the Solomon Islands’ Minister of Planning and Development Rexson Ramofafia.

These meetings are in line with the Kingdom’s ongoing efforts to further bolster and propel relations with the respective countries.

According to the online data visualization and distribution platform Observatory of Economic Complexity, in 2022, Saudi Arabia exported $1.73 billion to Qatar, while the small, gas-rich Gulf nation exported $474 million to the Kingdom. 

OEC also revealed that while Saudi Arabia exported $7.65 million to Hungary in 2022, the European country exported $223 million to the Kingdom. 

OEC disclosed that in 2020, Saudi Arabia exported $20,800 to the Solomon Islands, while the latter exported $32,800 to the Kingdom.

“Accelerating the pace of progress requires policymaking that is ambitious and bold, but also clear, collaborative, and solution-oriented,” Al-Ibrahim said in his address during the event, according to a statement. 

“We need to develop a prioritization mechanism that enables nations to focus on the most efficient policies and the smartest solutions that unlock the greatest impact, for the greatest number of people, in the shortest possible timeframe,” the minister added.

He went on to note that sustainable progress hinges on creating and capturing opportunities to improve the overall standard of living to enhance quality of life. 

“We are taking a whole-of-economy, human-centric approach to unlocking our inherent potential under Saudi Vision 2030. We are also localizing sustainable action, whereby cities are publishing their Voluntary Local Reviews while integrating sustainable practices to reach all communities,” Al-Ibrahim further stressed. 

“Under the Saudi Green Initiative, the Kingdom is playing a key role in achieving global climate targets. With more than 80 initiatives, we are investing more than $180 billion to grow the green economy and cement our position as a renewable energy leader,” the minister added. 

He concluded by saying: “As we look ahead, let us take a smarter, more pragmatic approach to deliver more tangible progress. Let us prioritize the challenges we can address now, and fast, so that we can unlock more capabilities, more energy, and more hope.”

According to a post on X by the ministry, the officials also discussed enhancing international cooperation in different fields.   

The statement further stated that Saudi Arabia participated in this forum with a delegation that included 13 entities from the government sector headed by Al-Ibrahim. 

The Kingdom has participated in the forum every year since 2017, as the HLPF has been held annually since 2015 under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council.

In June, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud received the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, and his accompanying delegation during their official visit to the capital, Riyadh, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said on July 12.  

The ministry said in a statement that at the time, the two sides reviewed bilateral relations and ways to enhance and develop them in various fields and discussed intensifying joint coordination on many issues of concern to both countries.

Also in June, Hungary’s Deputy Minister and State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, Tamas Vargha, said that the economic ties between Saudi Arabia and Hungary will continue to grow over the next few years.

“(Saudi Arabia’s) Vision 2030 … I think it’s a success story … it’s a good basis for our cooperation,” Vargha told Arab News during a recent interview.

“You have seen lots of changes since Vision 2030 started … both social changes and the economic changes and growth,” Vargha said at the time.

In December 2023, Saudi Arabia and Qatar announced that they were working to “deepen and expand” their economic, military, sports, and cultural ties. 

According to a statement issued at the time, this followed the Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council meeting attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, the emir of Qatar.


Saudi PIF strikes 3 deals to boost renewable energy component manufacturing in the the Kingdom

Updated 16 July 2024
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Saudi PIF strikes 3 deals to boost renewable energy component manufacturing in the the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has partnered with the world’s second-largest manufacturer of solar cell components for a $2.8 billion-power production plant in the Kingdom.

A statement from TCL Zhonghuan Renewable Energy Technology Co. confirmed the agreement, which is one of three signed off by the sovereign wealth fund on July 16 as it seeks to boost Saudi Arabia’s renewable energy sector.

The deals – entered into by the PIF subsidiary Renewable Energy Localization Co. – all involve creating joint ventures with Saudi firm Vision Industries.

One plan will see RELC working with Envision Energy to transform Saudi Arabia into a manufacturer of wind turbines and components.

The third deal involves an agreement with Jinko Solar to localize production of photovoltaic cells and modules.

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in diversifying its energy mix toward renewable sources to meet its pledge to cut carbon emissions and promote sustainable development. By 2030, the country aims to source at least 50 percent of its electricity from renewables.  

Welcoming the deals, Yazeed Al-Humied, deputy governor and head of MENA Investments at PIF, said: “The new agreements are part of PIF’s efforts to localize advanced technologies in the renewable sector in Saudi Arabia and meet commitments to increase the share of local content, as well as contribute to localizing the production of 75 percent of the components in Saudi Arabia’s renewable projects by 2030 in line with the Ministry of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Program.

“These projects will also enable Saudi Arabia to become a global hub for export of renewable technologies. PIF aims to achieve these targets through its projects and portfolio companies, including RELC, which support PIF’s progress in renewable energy and investment, and enhance partnership with the private sector.” 

In a press release setting out more details of the deals, it was revealed that the agreement with TCL Zhonghuan Renewable Energy subsidiary Lumetech S.A. PTE. will localize production of solar photovoltaic ingots and wafers with the capacity to generate 20 gigawatts of power a year.

Under this agreement, RELC will hold 40 percent of the JV, with Lumetech holding 40 percent and Vision Industries having 20 percent.

The JV with Envision Energy will involve the manufacture and assembly of wind turbine components, including blades, with an estimated annual generation capacity of 4 GW. 

In this arrangement, RELC will once again hold 40 percent of the JV, with Envision holding 50 percent and Vision Industries holding 10 percent.

The agreement with Jinko Solar entails localizing the manufacture of photovoltaic cells and modules for high-efficiency solar generation. Under the agreement, which envisages annual production of 10 GW generation capacity, RELC will hold 40 percent of the JV, with Jinko Solar holding the same amount and Vision Industries accounting for the final 20 percent.

Overall, PIF, through Acwa Power and Badeel, is currently developing a total of eight renewable energy projects with a total capacity of 13.6 GW, involving over $9 billion of investment from the wealth fund and its partners. 

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz Al-Saud, recently launched the Geographic Survey Project for Renewable Energy, aimed at identifying optimal sites for solar and wind power initiatives across the Kingdom, marking it as an unprecedented endeavor.