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Nouf al-Anzy's new life shows how Saudi Arabia's social reforms are helping its struggling economy. Six months ago she got her first job, one of tens of thousands of women to do so as the government tackles prejudice against female employment.The The extent to which the economy can pick up after shrinking last year for the first time since 2009 may depend largely on how much female empowerment and other social reforms can contribute.Two years after it launched an economic reform program to cut reliance on oil exports, Saudi Arabia has little to show for it. Mohammad Alagil, chairman of Jarir Marketing, a top retailing chain, told Reuters rising female employment was one reason for a 13.4 percent increase in his company's sales last year despite the tough economic times.The number of Saudis at work grew by about 102,000 to 3.16 million last year; about two-thirds of the rise occurred among women, who added 64,000 jobs to 1.08 million.The female participation rate in the economy currently stands at around 19 percent; doubling that ratio would put a million more women to work, while still leaving Saudi Arabia well below rates of about 55 percent seen in many Western nations.
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