Saudi Labor Minister Adel Faqih announced on the weekend that soon women will be allowed to work in pharmacies, a job that to date only men have held, local media reported Sunday.

Faqih said at a private business event that his ministry is working to prepare a "safe and proper" environment that guarantees the employment of women in pharmacies.

The minister, who did not specify when the new measure will enter into effect, admitted that his department had faced criticism over its program designed to offer more job opportunities to Saudi women.

In January 2011, stores selling feminine products in Saudi Arabia began to hire women to replace male employees in accord with a resolution by the Labor Ministry.

Moreover, on Jan. 11 of this year Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz issued a decree authorizing the entry of 30 women into the country's Consultative Assembly, or Shura Council, which up to that date had included only men.

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic monarchy ruled by the Wahhabi sect, which takes a very rigorous and conservative view of Islam, but recently it has undertaken a series of timid reforms to liberalize various social institutions including in September 2011 authorizing women to participate as candidates and voters in municipal elections, which are held every four years. EFE