SR24bn family driver segment keen on women driving

Expat private drivers of Saudi families waiting to pick children from a school in Jeddah on Wednesday. — SG Photo by Irfan Mohammed

Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — Kingdom’s historic decision of allowing women to drive cars did take the segment of expatriate population, which is exclusively dependent upon driving, by surprise but many welcomed it too.

The sensational news of women being allowed to drive was main topic among family drivers outside schools here on Wednesday, with many drivers arriving an hour earlier as part of their routine without noticing the extended academic hour. The news did cause astonishment among them.

Some believed that it would ease their hectic workload to some extent as women can go directly about their chores while others were concerned about their fate when the decision would take effect.

“I shuttle between four schools, each with different timings and a close tight schedule without interval,” said an Indian family driver Mohammed Waseem. “Not only me, but the entire family including parents and children spend hectic time in the afternoon until I pick them all up and drop them at home,” he added.

With the historic decision, “My madam (employer’s wife) will be able to pick the children from the school near to home, easing the schedule and cutting the wait time for the children.”

Hailing the decision, an Egyptian driver, who identified himself only as Hajjar, said that women driving would ease the job of expatriate drivers. He termed it as positive and pragmatic approach that will help all stakeholders.

Many expatriate drivers are employed only to drive their female bosses to office and back home, and beyond that they hardly don any thing.

“If my madam can drive to office on her own then what is the need of drivers like me,” asked Indian expatriate driver Sayeeduddin. He said that he drives only from his employer’s house in Hera Street to King Abdulaziz University and back and sometimes goes in evening for shopping.

Taking advantage of women not being able to drive, some expatriate drivers were holding the families to ransom and demanding increase in salaries and payment of traffic violations.

“I was thinking of pressing for increase of SR200 in my salary but after hearing the women are being allowed to drive, I have decided to keep silent for time being,” said Rambhupal Reddy, another driver who works for a Saudi family in Badiya area in Riyadh.

The house driver plays an important role in Saudi household and bridges the gap between house and outside world for women folk at house in context of transportation. The fast growing population in Kingdom necessitated a household helper in the form of driver, who mostly come from Asian countries in general and India in particular.

According to a report by Labor Ministry that there are 1.38 million private drivers existing in Kingdom as on first quarter of 2017. The average salary of house driver is SR1,500–1,700.

If one considers SR1,500 as the mean, they remit over SR2 billion every month to their home countries. Saudi families also pay for recruitment charges and flight tickets for every two years.

India is prime sourcing country of domestic drivers in Kingdom and Uttar Pradesh state sends largest number of drivers from the country.

The day-to-day activities of drivers entirely depends upon family, whom they work for — starting from early morning to night hours and their annual vacation are also seton par with Saudi school holidays.

The liberation of visa issuance to domestic workers through electronic system in the last couple of years has also contributed to increase of private drivers in Kingdom under male house helpers.

The selection of drivers is based upon behavior and contacts of existing drivers in neighborhoods. The schools are main assembly points of these drivers.