107,000 Saudi women apply for 140 passport office jobs

Saudi women apply for a job during Glowork Career Fair 2017 for Saudi women employments held at a hotel in the Saudi capital Riyadh, on September 28, 2017. Saudi Arabia will allow women to drive from June 2018, state media said on September 26, 2017 in a historic decision that makes the Gulf kingdom the last country in the world to permit women behind the wheel. The shock announcement comes after a years-long resistance from women's rights activists, some of whom were jailed for defying the ban on female driving. / AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE

RIYADH: The General Directorate of Passports had announced two weeks earlier it was looking for female applicants for roles at airports and the country’s land borders.

Some 107,000 women applied for 140 positions at Saudi Arabia’s passport office within a week of the jobs being posted online, local media reported.

The General Directorate of Passports announced via Twitter on Jan 18 that it was looking for female applicants for roles at airports and the country’s land borders.

The overwhelming level of interest “amazed” officials who subsequently closed the online application process, the Arab News newspaper reported.

Applicants were required to have a high school degree or the equivalent and be aged between 25 and 35.

This latest sign of women’s pent-up desire to work comes amid huge social changes sweeping Saudi Arabia as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to turn around the oil-dependent economy and return it to more “moderate” Islam.

Other signs of change include September’s royal decree allowing women to drive this summer and letting women and girls attend sports events.

Female unemployment in the kingdom stands at around 33 per cent — compared to an overall rate of 12 per cent.

Strict gender segregation long inhibited women’s working outside the home, although rules and customs around male and female mixing have relaxed in recent years.