Bridging the gender gap in the GCC is closer than you think

June 7, 2018 12:52 pm


The UAE has the highest ranking for “gender equality” in the GCC.

This comes as no surprise, especially with the growing female workforce and with women pursuing higher education more than men, according to the Human Development Report 2018, as compiled by the UAE University in collaboration with UN Development Program.

The UAE’s launch of the Gender Balance Council in 2017 played a significant role in furthering the purpose of Emirati women in the society, but there had already been a substantial improvement in female participation over the course of the country’s history, the report claimed.

Moreover, the UAE is ranked 67th in the world and first in the Gulf for the overall female political empowerment.

In fact, it seeks to achieve further development through its 2021 vision, as it is aiming for more female workforce participation.

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Education among genders

The average woman in the UAE workplace was found to be better educated than the average man, with 43% of working women holding a bachelor’s degree compared to the 23% of men.

More women have also completed post-secondary school education.

An equal growth

In 1975, approximately 1,000 Emirati women participated in the labor market, but in 2015 that number increased to 135,000 — an average increase of 2.5% each year, as per the report.

In comparison, Emirati men have seen the same average of 2.5% increase every year since 1975, from 44,000 to 207,000.

From non-citizens, female participation has increased from 10,000 to 882,000.

The number of men employed has grown in that time from 284,000 to more than 5.5 million again a 2.5% average yearly increase.

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Gender ratios

Nonetheless, the report also found women to be older than average men, with the largest group of women being in the 30 to 34 age group, compared to the largest for men being 25 to 29.

Improvements in female employment mean that the number of men for every woman in the labor market has decreased from 29 to six; and within the local population, that ratio has decreased from more than 40 to 1.5.

For every woman in a technical or vocational job, there are four men.

Women’s presence in legislative and administrative positions is essential, said the report, to help further women’s visibility in politics and give them a voice with regards to the economy and financial decisions.

However, the UAE had one woman to every man in these positions, ranking fourth in the GCC.

Is the gender pay gap bridged?

The gender gap is slowly coming to an end with more women joining the workforce, but equal pay is still an issue. The recent gender pay gap law has not been implemented yet but will fortify the UAE’s efforts in addressing this issue.

The Korn Ferry Hay Group said in a recent report that, around the world, men as a demographic group are paid an average of 20% more than women.

“Our global research confirms this gap but also shows that when compared “like for like,” the gender pay gap reduces to 1.6%,” said the research group.

However, Bloomberg quoted UAE’s Prime Minister and Dubai’s Ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as tweeting: “We don’t want any exceptions to equal opportunities between the sexes.”

Moreover, the drafted bill does not specify when it will be presented to the country’s advisory federal national council for final approval, Bloomberg reported.

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The future of the GCC looks promising

The Human Development Report 2018 also adds an inequality score, with zero implying full equality and one representing the highest possible level of inequality. The UAE scored 0.2, a significant drop over the past ten years, ranking it in the 46th place out of 188 countries and making it the highest in the GCC, followed by Bahrain at 48 and Saudi Arabia at 50.

Saudi has had notable improvements in the past few months, with the likes of Arab News aiming for a gender-balanced newsroom within the following two-year period, according to the announcement made at the Arab Women Forum at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).

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Edmon Abdul Nur
By Edmon Abdul Nur
Edmon Abdul Nur, a Junior Editor at AMEinfo, with more than 3 years of experience in technology research.



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