First female drivers recruited in Saudi Arabia

Ride-hailing apps announce plans to hire 10,000 women after Arab nation lifts ban

Saudi Arabian women are set to be granted the right to drive
Saudi Arabia has officially granted women the right to drive 
(Image credit: HASSAN AMMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Following Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive by June of this year, the country’s ride hailing apps are recruiting female drivers.

Female customers currently represent 80% of Uber’s Saudi rider base and 70% of business for its Dubai-based counterpart, Careem, according to stats seen by CNN. The apps are “a lifeline to women with no independent way to get around the Kingdom,” says the broadcaster.

“For years I felt helpless. My car would be parked outside and I could not drive,” Nawal al-Jabbar, a 50-year-old mother of three, told the Hindustan Times.

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The lifting of the ban “felt like we had woken up in a new Saudi Arabia,” Jabbar said.

Currently all drivers employed by the two firms are male and “mostly Saudi nationals driving their privately-owned vehicles,” according to CNN.

The firm plans to hire more than 10,000 “female captains” (drivers) by June, says Abdullah Elyas, co-founder and chief privacy officer at Careem.

“Female captains will help us provide a better service to many women who want to travel but refuse to be driven by men,” he says.

Careem also plans to add a new “Captinah” button to the app in June that will allow customers to choose female chauffeurs. The option will “only be available to other women and families,” Careem spokesman Murtadha Alalawi said.

Uber has announced plans to open new facilities dedicated to recruiting female drivers, or “partners”, as the company calls them.

“We will partner up with necessary stakeholders to facilitate the paperwork, training access, and access to vehicles, including access to driving schools run by third party partners,” says Zeid Hreish, Uber’s general manager in Saudi Arabia.

Uber and Careem hope their recruitment drive of women will “support the Saudi government’s efforts to reduce the country’s unemployment rate, which the Saudi General Authority for Statistics estimates to be at 12.8%,” says CNN.

But “one snag in all this, however, could be that Saudi labour laws currently stipulate that women should not work in the hours between sunset and sunrise,” adds the broadcaster.

Current exceptions to the law could be extended to include female drivers in the future.

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