Economic stagnation in Arab region results in doubling of redundancy rate among women compared to male counterparts
Although efforts to promote gender equality have gained momentum over the years, widespread discrimination persists when it comes to employment opportunities for women, according to a report by TalentRepublic.net, an emerging leader in the regional employment service market in the Middle East. The report pointed out that women have been hit harder than men by the economic recession, with global redundancy rate among women rising 2.5 per cent or almost twice the rate for men during the past year.
The report further noted that it has not been a lack of determination that has caused the decline in employment opportunities for women. In fact, studies have shown that up to 77 per cent of female middle managers around the world aim for senior-level positions in their respective companies; unfortunately, barely a quarter are able to achieve their goals.
TalentRepublic.net Cited a recent study showing that up to 60 per cent of working mothers across all income and education levels – up 12 percentage points since 1997 – do not want to give up their working status, preferring to work part-time. However, only a quarter of them are actually able to find part-time jobs.
In the Arab world, women have been achieving progress in terms of access to education, although this has not translated into more employment opportunities. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, women account for 56.5 per cent of the total number of graduates, outnumbering their male counterparts. Jobs in the private sector, however, have remained relatively scarce for women, prompting the Saudi Government to issue a new policy allocating up to one-third of all government jobs to women.
A leading cause of the relatively unfavourable job market opportunities for women is the lack of supportive policies and infrastructure to address the distinct requirements of women professionals. This in turn has discouraged a significant percentage of employers from recruiting female workers, despite many of them possessing strong credentials.
Specifically, the report noted that the absence of a more diversified professional services market catering to distinct women requirements such as childcare support continue to limit the ability of women to combine work and family responsibilities. Other standard infrastructure such as fast and reliable transport and extensive telecommunications services have also been identified as essential in efforts to increase participation of women in the job market, as these infrastructure facilities considerably boost the capability of women to be more productive and integrate or reintegrate more easily into the job market.
The report pointed out that the present economic realities actually do reveal the strong potential of women to succeed in the male-dominated job market. For instance, job sectors with the greatest skills shortages, which include IT and engineering, are also those where women are most under-represented. This means that women with the right IT and engineering qualifications and expertise can find gainful employment opportunities should they decide to pursue careers in the aforementioned sectors. This in turn will expand the talent pool and help accelerate and consolidate the growth and economic contribution of the said industries.
In addition, a series of studies have revealed that having more women at senior management levels correlate closely to better business performance. Companies with more women board directors have been shown to have significantly better financial performance, with 53 per cent higher returns on equity, 42 per cent higher sales returns, and 66 per cent higher returns on invested capital.
According to an international report, the excellent performance of women in management-level positions may also explain why the largest percentage of employed women (39 per cent) is in management, professional and related occupations. The report further noted that 34 per cent of working women are in sales and office; 20 per cent in service; 6 per cent in production, transportation and material moving; and 1 per cent in natural resources, construction and maintenance occupations.
In the Middle East, obtaining relevant qualifications to boost the career development of women can be a big challenge because of various cultural and personal issues such as early marriage and childbearing, which interrupt schooling and work and can potentially spoil women’s dream of pursuing a successful professional career. Continuing education programs as well as academic and technical training initiatives that are sensitive to the needs of women can greatly help address these issues, according to the report.
The report has called for proactive measures by governments across the MENA region to address key infrastructural requirements that support the increasing role of women in the job market and their contributions in the economy. Also, gender equality in creating job opportunities has been deemed an integral part of good governance, as it promotes and respects the right of all citizens and takes into account the needs of the entire society.
The report also cited the conclusion of a study released recently by Freedom House, a Washington-based group which tracks liberty's advance (or retreat) around the globe. The study says that since 2004, all six Middle Eastern countries in the study advanced women's rights, making "small but notable gains" in political, economic, and legal rights. Of the GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates), Kuwait and the UAE made the most progress.
TalentRepublic.net is a regional recruitment service provider that empowers both professionals and potential employers with its fast, efficient and easy-to-use solutions. It uses a state-of-the-art search engine to help jobseekers and employers find what they are looking for. TalentRepublic.net was created to connect the increasing number of young professionals in the Middle East with the right employers who will hone their skills and knowledge while helping them build a successful career. The solutions are also geared for seasoned expatriate professionals who wish to effectively tap the opportunities in the region.