How Much has Saudi Arabia Changed Over Time?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known as one of the most conservative nations in the world. There have been many laws and rules that regulate matters concerning religious freedom, human rights, and social activities in the Kingdom.

In this post, we will take a look at some of the changes that took place in the Kingdom during the last five years and see how these have affected the residents in the Kingdom. What do you think are those changes? Continue reading below to find out…

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Here are the Major Changes that Took Place in Saudi Arabia in the Last 5 Years

If you’ve heard some stories about Saudi Arabia in the news or from your relatives and friends, you might be compelled to think that life in the Kingdom must have been hard for its residents including expats and overseas Filipino workers.

But doesn’t it seem strange that Saudi remains among the top destinations for OFWs for work? Why do many Filipinos still go to Saudi for work despite all the stories we’ve heard about the country? Is it still the same case for today?

For hundreds of years since it was founded, Saudi Arabia has been an absolute monarchy. This means that all power to enforce laws and the decision-making comes from only one person. Since 2015, this responsibility has been given to King Salman.

And for hundreds of years, the Kingdom has strictly embraced its conservative laws based on its religion, Islam. This has led the rest of the outside world to believe that Saudi is and will always be an isolated Kingdom where people live differently from the rest of us.

However, with King Salman’s reign during the last five years, major changes took place that shocked outsiders who thought Saudi was bound to stay as it has been for centuries, with little to no signs of progressive growth and change in the people’s thinking.

The major changes that took place in the Kingdom during King Salman’s regime were mostly that of concerning basic rights and privileges enjoyed by women, who for the longest time have been kept isolated and discriminated by society in favor of men.

In 2020, women above 21 years of age can now:

  1. Travel alone.
    In the past, women were not allowed to travel without the consent and the presence of a male guardian.
  2. Apply for a passport.
    With the ability to travel on their own, women can now also apply for a passport and travel the world or use it for purposes such as applying for work, etc.
  3. Cross and exit the borders of Saudi Arabia.
    As women can now apply for a passport, those who wish to work in industries such as aviation and transportation also now enjoy the freedom to cross and exit the borders of Saudi Arabia as they wish.
  4. Drive around the city.
    In recent years, the number of female drivers in the Kingdom has significantly increased, creating more jobs for women and making services more accessible to them.
  5. Vote and run for public office.
    In the recent elections, at least 77 female leaders have been elected into office. The change could further push Saudi’s initiative for gender equality and women empowerment.
  6. Enjoy access to basic rights such as setting up their own business, watching live sports (segregated), working in the private sectors, and going to the cinema.
    Note: Employment has been quite a hot topic in the Kingdom since the government enforced the ‘Saudization’ program which gives priority for citizens in the workforce (mostly in public and private sectors) over migrants including overseas Filipino workers.
  7. Enjoy doing physical exercise on the streets and in the gym. As women are now allowed to participate in more social and public events, they can also join marathons and other activities out on the streets as long as they act appropriately and do not violate any laws.
  8. Join the military. Although women are now allowed to enlist in the military, this still requires permission from a male guardian (father or husband).
  9. Have custody of their children (after divorce). Traditionally, Saudi men are considered the head of the household and that all decisions for the family only come from them.
  10. Wear casual clothing (as long as this does not reveal too much skin). Although women are no longer required to cover their faces with a hijab or wear traditional long black garments (abaya), they are still not allowed to wear indecent or inappropriate clothing in public.

Aside from changes concerning the rights and privileges of women, social activities such as holding live concerts and playing loud music are now allowed in the Kingdom.

Also, taking videos in public is now allowed but this should not be done in unknown or private locations such as residences and government-restricted areas, etc.

Since 2017, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has joined the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and Gender Empowerment. But according to a recent survey by the UN, Saudi Arabia still ranked #141 out of 144 countries in terms of gender equality.

How Much has Saudi Arabia Changed Over Time?

While there’s still a long way to go before we see Saudi Arabia become a much more gender-friendly nation, the fact that change has already started will not keep progress from happening in a few more years. After all, change does not happen overnight.

In our own little ways, let us help promote every good change that benefits all human beings no matter the race, color, or gender.

What do you think about the changes taking place in Saudi Arabia right now? Will you be visiting or returning to Saudi because of these changes anytime soon? Tell us what you think by leaving a comment in the section below!

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