The UAE has been ranked as the top country in the Middle East and North Africa for wage equality, according to a new report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
However, the UAE’s performance on the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018’s wage equality indicator saw a slight decrease compared to last year, a statement said.
The Emirates also topped the region in terms of the number of women in ministerial positions, with improvements recorded in gender parity in the legislators, senior officials and managers and healthy life expectancy indicators.
Overall, the report found that despite the gender gap across the MENA region closing narrowly in 2018, it remains the world’s least gender-equal region.
It will take the Middle East and North Africa economies “153 years to close the gender gap at the current rate of change”, the report stated.
While Tunisia topped the region for gender equality – ranking 119 globally, the UAE ranked 121 with the gender gap closed at 64.2 per cent. Saudi Arabia, ranked 141 with a 59 per cent gender gap rate, showed “modest progress”, with improvement in wage equality and women’s labour force participation, the report stated.
Globally, the report found that the global gender gap only slightly reduced in 2018, as stagnation in the proportion of women in the workplace and women’s declining representation in politics, along with greater inequality in access to health and education, offset improvements in wage equality and the number of women in professional positions.
According to the report, the world has closed 68 per cent of its gender gap, as measured across four key pillars: economic opportunity; political empowerment; educational attainment; and health and survival.
Last year was the first since the report began publishing in 2006 that the gap between men and women widened.
At the current rate of change, the report indicated that it will take 108 years to close the overall gender gap and 202 years to bring about parity in the workplace.
Globally, having closed more than 85.8 per cent of its overall gender gap, Iceland topped the list for the 10th consecutive year. It was followed by Norway, Sweden, Finland and Nicaragua.
“The economies that will succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be those that are best able to harness all their available talent,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF.
“Proactive measures that support gender parity and social inclusion and address historical imbalances are therefore essential for the health of the global economy as well as for the good of society as a whole.”
The report also found that while the income gap between men and women has become narrower, fewer women are participating in the workforce.
“This a worrisome development for which there are a number of potential reasons,” the report said.
“One is that automation is having a disproportionate impact on roles traditionally performed by women. At the same time, women are under-represented in growing areas of employment that require STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills and knowledge. Another potential reason is that the infrastructure needed to help women enter or re-enter the workforce – such as childcare and eldercare – is under-developed and unpaid work remains primarily the responsibility of women,” the report explained.
“The corollary is that the substantial investments made by many economies to close the education gap are failing to generate optimal returns in the form of growth.”
According to Saadia Zahidi, head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society and member of the WEF managing board, industries must “proactively hardwire gender parity in the future of work through effective training, reskilling and upskilling interventions and tangible job transition pathways”.
“It’s in their long-term interest because diverse businesses perform better,” she added.