A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
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Saudi Arabia's decision to end a driving ban for women is likely to save families billions of dollars, boost industries from car sales to insurance and reassure investors that the kingdom's push to diversify its economy beyond oil is on track.King Salman ordered Tuesday that women be allowed to drive cars, ending the religiously inspired ban that made it hard for many women to work and forced many Saudi families to employ at least one driver to transport female members.About 10 million women over the age of 20, including foreigners, live in Saudi Arabia; nearly 1.4 million foreigners work as household drivers, earning roughly $500 a month in addition to being provided with accommodation and food.Saudi economic news service Maaal estimated that the drivers now collectively earn about $8.8 billion annually.Saudi Arabia posted a current account gap of $27.6 billion last year.Malik said there could be a short, one-off boost to Saudi car sales in coming months, as women buy vehicles before a scheduled imposition of value added tax in January 2018 .In many cases, however, women would not need to buy as they could use vehicles relinquished by departed chauffeurs.
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