Saudi Arabia's plan to bring a further 1.3 million women into the workforce by 2030 has been given a lift from ride-hailing apps Uber and Dubai-based rival Careem. As Sonia Legg reports, the cars offer women, who are banned from driving, an alternative to being driven to work by male relatives or by the existing, unreliable taxi system.
They only employ men but Uber and local ride-hailing firm Careem are helping get women into the workplace in Saudi Arabia. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SAUDI WOMAN, LAMYA NASER, SAYING : "As women in Saudi Arabia we are not allowed to drive and we do not have enough money to pay a chauffeur. The Careem app has solved all these problems." In some cities Uber has provoked protests, with taxi drivers fearing their businesses will suffer. But Saudi Arabia is offering state investment to both Uber and Careem. It's hoping the companies will get 1.3 million women into work by 2030. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UBER GENERAL MANAGER IN SAUDI ARABIA, ZEID HREISH, SAYING: "More than 80 percent of the riders in Saudi are women that take Uber to go either to education or workforce or maybe start up their own company. I think there is a very big appetite for women to actually use Uber in Saudi to move around and we've managed to provide a service that is really needed." Uber and Careem say they'll create up to 200,000 jobs for Saudi men in the next two years. That's almost three times the number of employees at state oil giant Aramco. All the new jobs must also be given to Saudi nationals. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CO-FOUNDER OF CAREEM, ABDULLA ELYAS, SAYING: "The number of cars and the number of captains who are actually Saudis changed from being zero percent to 60 percent today, so 60 percent already today of our whole fleet is Saudized." And there's another reason for the success of ride-hailing. Many of the vehicles in the existing taxi system are considered too old for some of the wealthier women. There's a three year age limit on all Uber or Careem cars.