Saudi Arabia’s ban on female drivers has spawned a unique and expensive industry. In a country of only 19 million people, according to a 2010 census, the number of hired chauffeurs has reached a staggering 800,000. And these drivers don’t come cheap.
Saudi Arabian families are paying a whopping $3.7 billion a year for them. Included in the costs are not only wages but also visa, uniform, insurance and housing expenses. The foreigners coming into the country to drive are a necessity, and the kingdom is a lucrative place to work as a chauffeur.
While Saudi Arabia has been historically stringent with its granting of visas, the government is now reviewing its requirements for work and visit visas. Although the easier access is meant to attract more foreign investors into the slumping oil market, it also means foreign chauffeurs (and their families) will have a much easier time entering the country for work.