107,000 Saudi women apply for 140 jobs at passport office

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By F. Brinley Bruton

Some 107,000 women applied for 140 positions at Saudi Arabia's passport office within a week of the jobs being posted online, local media reported.

Women gather outside an immigration office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.Fayez Nureldine / AFP/Getty Images file

The General Directorate of Passports announced via Twitter on Jan. 18 that it was looking for female applicants for roles at airports and the country's land borders.

The overwhelming level of interest "amazed" officials who subsequently closed the online application process, the Arab News newspaper reported.

Applicants were required to have a high school degree or the equivalent and be aged between 25 and 35.

This latest sign of women's pent-up desire to work comes amid huge social changes sweeping the Saudi Arabia as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to turn around the oil-dependent economy and return it to more "moderate" Islam.

Other signs of change include September's royal decree allowing women to drive this summer and letting women and girls attend sports events.

Female unemployment in the kingdom stands at around 33 percent — compared to an overall rate of 12 percent.

Strict gender segregation long inhibited women's working outside the home, although rules and customs around male and female mixing has relaxed in recent years.