Increasing economic opportunities for women is crucial to creating more productive economies in the Arab region, experts have stressed.
Speaking at the Annual Conference of the Arab Thought Foundation (FIKR12) in Dubai, Emanuela Pozzan, a senior gender specialist at the International Labour Organisation, Italy said that a lot of work done by women in the region remains unpaid.
“More economic opportunities for women leads to a more productive economy. However, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, women are less likely to have a job, work in fewer sectors than men, and work for poorer salaries than men in the same sector,” he said.
Although 60 per cent of university students across the GCC nations are women, it is estimated that only 19.2 per cent participate in the workforce. The figure is roughly the same across the Arab region, while in North Africa, women comprise 27 per cent of the working population.
“The general perception in the region is that women are doing complimentary work. Besides, women are less likely to negotiate for their salaries than men. It is estimated that nine per cent more men than women negotiate for better salaries and job prospects,” Emanuela said.
A study on the role of women in the GCC workforce, conducted a few years ago by Oxford Strategic Consulting, also found that the region is “underusing a significant resource” that could otherwise contribute greatly to its ambitions.
“The economic and social prosperity of the GCC depends on fully utilising the skills and contribution of all citizens, including women,” it said.
Experts at the FIKR12 conference called for increased governmental intervention to remove gender-based discrimination and create a secure workplace environment for women.
They also stressed that it was vital to increase opportunities for women in the labour force through adequate legal framework.