Riyadh, March 3: Saudi Government on Thursday banned Uber and Careem drivers have been banned from picking up passengers from Saudi Arabia’s airports. The main reason behind this ban is to include more women in the workforce till the year 2030.
Notably, Saudi Arabia has embraced Uber and regional rival Careem to a far greater extent, courting both companies with substantial state investments to support its Vision 2030 economic reform plan, particularly its goal to get more women in the workforce. In a country where women are barred from driving and private drivers are often prohibitively expensive, women account for around 80 percent of Uber and Careem's passengers.
A spokesman for the kingdom's General Directorate of Traffic Colonel Tareq Al-Rubaiaan said that the drivers from ride-hailing services Uber and Careem are barred from picking up passengers from Saudi Arabia's airports and traffic authorities would punish any violators found transporting passengers on airport grounds.
However, airport regulations have long barred private drivers from offering their cars for hire to arriving passengers in Saudi Arabia, which means the ride-sharing apps have operated in the legally murky territory as they grew increasingly popular. Uber already had shaky ties with Gulf regulators, and only last month signed an agreement with transport authorities in neighboring Dubai to become fully regulated after a series of clashes over pricing and availability.
Saudi authorities have also used the apps to bolster employment for Saudi men, requiring in November that Uber and Careem "limit the jobs to Saudi nationals," while allowing non-Saudis already registered as drivers to continue to work for the companies.
“The percentage of Careem captains who are Saudi has jumped from effectively zero to 60 percent in the last 12 months, and we aim to employ 70,000 Saudis by end 2017,” Abdullah Elyas, co-founder of Careem, has been quoted as saying. However, Uber and Careem say that they will create up to 200,000 jobs for Saudi men in the next two years.