Increasing the presence of women in the workforce is one of the components in Saudi Arabia’s new package of economic and social policies for its post-oil journey.
While giving glimpses of the “Saudi Vision 2030” on Monday, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the kingdom aims to increase women’s participation in the workforce to 30 per cent from 22 per cent now.
The reform plans will also seek to reduce citizens’ unemployment to seven per cent from the current 11.6 per cent.
However, Riyadh has not elaborated how it will achieve its ambitious goal.
Multinational management consulting services company Accenture says digital skills may help increase the female workforce in Saudi Arabia.
In its latest research report, titled Getting to Equal: How Digital is Helping Close the Gender Gap at Work, Accenture says digital-savvy women are helping to close the gender gap in the workplace globally. Also, they are increasingly using digital skills to gain an edge in preparing for a work, finding a job and advancing in career.
If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, gender equality could be achieved within 25 years in developed nations, as opposed to 50 years at the current pace, the report says.
On the other hand, in developing countries, enhancing women’s digital fluency will help bridge the workplace gender gap in 45 years, compared with the forecast of 85 years at the current pace.
“Digital fluency enables access to education, workforce flexibility and new avenues of finding employment,” says Omar Boulos, regional managing director for Middle East and North Africa at Accenture.
The report has found that, while both men and women in Saudi Arabia have the same level of digital proficiency, the latter fare better at leveraging it to find work.
For example, 90 per cent of women in the kingdom use digital means to prepare for and find work, compared with just 72 per cent of the men.
“Because women are underrepresented in the workforce in most countries, they are a significant source of untapped talent and, by extension, this untapped talent has the most to gain from digital fluency,” adds Boulos.
Digital fluency has also had a more positive impact on the education of women in developing countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the report says.
“With governments in the GCC emphasising on developing human capital through education and training to achieve economic goals, strengthening digital skills is mission-critical in creating a workforce that is adaptable, agile and aware of the emerging challenges of future economies,” says Boulos.