Saudi lingerie shops drag feet on deadline to hire women


Saudi lingerie stores are dragging their feet on an official deadline to avoid embarrassing female shoppers by replacing their male sales clerks with women, saying the change will create staff problems, lose them customers and cost them money. Women in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most conservative societies, still have to buy their intimate clothing from male clerks, despite several petitions and two government decrees ordering businesses to hire women.
In an effort to enforce the regulations, the Labour Ministry threatened on July 11 to close any lingerie shops that failed to replace all male staff within six months. “We read about the order in newspapers but we did not receive any instructions (from management)… This plan can work but not at the speed they are expecting. The women have to be trained from scratch,” said Tarek, a store manager at a lingerie shop in Jeddah.
In Saudi society, where religious police patrol the streets to enforce segregation of the sexes, women are not allowed to work in public places where they have contact with men, such as sale clerks or cashiers. Shops that hire females must bear the cost of training them, cover their display windows to block the view into the stores and hire a male security guard, for at least 3,500 riyals ($930) a month, during work hours to keep men from entering.