JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—Rosie the Riveter has come to Saudi Arabia.
Arabian Vehicles & Trucks Industry Co. Ltd. (AVI), a division of the Zahid Group, has begun employing women at its assembly plant in King Abdullah Economic City, according to a report in the Saudi Gazette. A joint venture between Zahid Group and Volvo Trucks Corp. since 1998, the factory produces Volvo, Renault and UD trucks.
Employing women in manufacturing would have been unthinkable in Saudi Arabia just a few years ago. But, in April 2016, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman unveiled “Saudi Vision 2030,” a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism. The framework’s goals include reinforcing economic and investment activities, increasing non-oil international trade, and boosting participation of women in the workforce.
According to the International Labor Organization, women represented just 15.8 percent of the workforce in Saudi Arabia in 2019, the fifth lowest percentage in the world. In comparison, women represent 46.2 percent of the workforce in the U.S. and 38.9 percent of the workforce worldwide.Embracing the diversification goal, AVI has been “aggressively recruiting” both men and women for assembly jobs. The company has also been providing extensive on-the-job training. Today, many women work on the company’s assembly line.
“Being a part of the process has made me appreciate all the hard work and detail that goes into building the trucks,” says one of the female employees at the plant. “I feel proud to be building a truck that would transport food and fruits to the supermarkets I regularly shop at.”
The AVI plant has subsequently received gold-level recognition for quality from Volvo, becoming one of the top Volvo plants in the world.