This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Women Drivers (or Not) in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is working very hard, according to the New York Times, to keep Arab monarchies in power and to tamp down revolution wherever it possibly can. The goal seems to be to maintain the power and credibility of its fundamentalist form of Islam, Wahhabi, which allows an authoritarian leader such as a monarch, whereas the more mainstream form of Sunni Islam practiced in most of the rest of the world does not condone that form of government. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is trying to protect the region from the influence of Shia Islam as practiced in Iran, especially, but also in Iraq, as well (Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan are the only Shia-majority countries in the world).
From a purely demographic perspective, Saudi Arabia has the kind of young population that could spark a revolution, if pushed by circumstances. Nearly 1 in 2 Saudis is under the age of 25, although that percentage is declining as fertility slowly comes down in the kingdom. Still, its population of 27 million is twice what is was only 25 years ago, and UN projections suggest that the population will very nearly double again by the middle of this century. Thus far, one of the more noticeable signs of discontent has come from a woman pushing for the ability of women to drive cars in Saudi Arabia.
It's time to just let women drive: "There need not be a stand-off or confrontation on this issue if it is handled correctly," says The Saudi Gazette in an editorial. All the government has to do is let women drive. "Society will not break down if women are mobile." The ban is unofficial, anyway — there is no law saying women can't drive. So all it will take to settle this is educating men that the women in their lives need more freedom if they — and Saudi society — are to reach their full potential.
The gender divide may be Saudi Arabia's genuine weak point--the true clash of civilizations.

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