The pronouncements have been as frequent as they are transformative. In the most recent liberalising reform to be unveiled in Saudi Arabia, women no longer need consent from a male relative to open their own businesses. It marks a major move away from the guardianship system, in which women need permission to travel, study and run their own companies. And it is just the latest in a swift succession of necessary reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in response to the needs of an increasingly dynamic, youthful population, whose voices will play a large role in the future of the country.
None of the economic and social reforms should be seen as disparate. They are part of the crown prince's greater Vision 2030 plan, which affects every aspect of how Saudis live, work and play. What is more, the inclusive changes encourage them to think about the role they will take in shaping society and the value placed on their contribution. The lifting of the cinema ban, which will see screens opening for the first time in 36 years, will be part of a number of entertainment options launching in the kingdom. Women will be able to take the wheel from June this year, when the lifting of the driving ban comes into effect. Visitors will be able to see the transformed landscape for themselves when tourist visas and unaccompanied travel for women over the age of 24 are introduced. The primary beneficiaries of sweeping reforms are the country's youth and among them, its women.
Women in the kingdom currently make up less than one-quarter of the workforce – yet there is an appetite among its female population to contribute and be useful, productive members of society. Tens of thousands flock to women-only careers fairs in Riyadh every year and there has been an increasing take-up of jobs in female-run industrial zones while better daycare facilities and chauffeur services like Uber have been giving them greater flexibility. The potential for many more women, particularly entrepreneurs, to deploy their skills, ideas and work ethic can only help society flourish and be more successful. The businesses they set up will in turn boost Saudi Arabia's coffers by increasing VAT revenue. Diversifying an oil-based economy in this way and making the best use of the country's human capital is not only a smart move; it will be a game-changer.