2 thoughts on “Saudi women to drive”

  1. Nick Stadtmiller is right to take a cool look at this important and symbolic development. However my comment is that half the Saudi population is younger than the Crown Prince, i.e. under 30, and that young women in the Kingdom are very very keen to seize this opportunity to change the way their country develops. They want to prove that they do not need a driver. My sample is necessarily small, but I was in the Kingdom yesterday and there is a great feeling of euphoria among the young, particularly the women. My sample had driving licences already from overseas. I heard that Egyptian companies are offering holidays to Saudi women complete with driving lessons. Auto retailers are said to be in a lather of expectation at the prospect of selling attractive modern cars to female purchasers. There will be ugly incidents: Saudi males are famously aggressive drivers who have huge SUVs and will not easily be converted to being more chivalrous at the wheel. There may be even greater congestion at shopping malls. However this is a symbolic moment and young Saudi women will not let it pass without keen and widespread participation, even if they still keep a driver (as I would) for general convenience.

  2. Nick Stadtmiller

    The move to allow women to drive is certainly a huge move symbolically, but I am sceptical of the near-term, far-reaching economic implications that many have suggested. Having a driver is a sign of social position, and I doubt many wealthier Saudi women will abandon this convenience just because they could drive themselves. Furthermore, many male and female white-collar expatriate workers have drivers paid for by their companies as part of their packages. Again, I doubt foreign women would give this up just because they can now drive legally.
    The inability to drive has certainly been an impediment for young Saudi women who want to work, but social mores are also a major barrier. The recent change in law may help to shift those attitudes, but it will take years for true change to take place.
    Finally, it is unlikely that many women aged 40 or more will suddenly run out and acquire driving licenses after having spent decades without this possibility.
    This move forward for women’s rights may alter the trajectory of Saudi society going forward, but it appears unlikely to cause a massive change to economic conditions today.

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