Maternity and Paternity Leaves in the Arab World: Slow Yet Significant Progress

Published September 21st, 2020 - 03:00 GMT
Maternity and Paternity Leaves in the Arab World: Slow Yet Significant Progress
Parental leaves are increasingly gaining more importance in a world where more women than ever are enrolling in the organized career world. (Shutterstock: Visual Generation)

While the world has for decades been demanding women to create a balance between professional life and family life, especially as more women than ever are enrolled in the organized world of work, many governments are realizing that such a responsibility is to be shared between both parents throughout government regulations.

The need to engage more women in the workplace and to fill the gender gap, still significantly big around the world, is pushing governments to think of more regulatory rules that can encourage women to take part in the workplace and eventually achieve the development goals of their local communities, without worrying about other burdens.

Amongst women's most important considerations when it comes to taking a job, is how family-friendly it is, whether they offer flexible working hours or on-site nursery options where their kids can be taken care of.

Additionally, most if not all countries around the world have issued detailed laws that grant women several weeks of paid leave once they give birth to their babies, as to help them recover, spend time with their newborns, and to get used to a new routine.

However, this decades-long practice has for long associated the responsibility of taking care of kids and raising them with women exclusively, totally dismissing the fact that many women are now working full time just like men are, which means that responsibilities should be equally shared between them, including taking care of a newborn.

While the course of nature has taxed women with a higher physical task when it comes to having kids, as they are the ones getting pregnant, giving birth, and nursing kids, men still have plenty of roles to play around their newly born babies especially during the first few weeks.

This realization has led many governments around the world to offer new fathers paid leaves similar to those granted to new mothers, so duties are shared as much as possible, achieving a higher level of equality.

Below, we examine paid maternity and paternity leaves in some Arab countries, in an effort to learn more about countries closer to bridging the gender gap in the region.

1. Saudi Arabia

Maternity Leave: 10 Weeks

Paternity Leave: 3 Days. (Announced in November 2015)

In March 2016, A female MP suggested a 6-month paid paternity leave but her suggestion received string criticism from women who argued that paternity leaves should not be longer than maternity ones. They also suspected that such a long leave is supposed to urge men to invest their time in the house or taking care of the kids, but in reality, this might encourage them to travel abroad and spend more time with their friends.

2. UAE 

Maternity Leave: 90 Days (public sector).

Paternity Leave: 5 Days.

Last August, the UAE became the first Arab country to offer 5 days paternity leaves for men working in both the public and the private sectors.

3. Lebanon

Maternity Leave: 10 Weeks.

Paternity Leave: 3 Days. (Announced in December 2017)

4. Jordan

Maternity Leave: 10 Weeks.

Paternity Leave: 3 Days. (Announced in January 2019)

5. Algeria

Maternity Leave:  14 Weeks.

Paternity Leave: 3 Days.

6. Morocco

Maternity Leave: 12 Weeks.

Paternity Leave: 3 Days.

7. Tunisia

Maternity Leave: 2 Months.

Paternity Leave: 2 Days.

In July 2019, the Tunisian parliament failed to vote in favor of a new law that grants women 1 more month of paid leave in addition to extending paternity leaves to 15 days.

8. Egypt

Maternity Leave: 4 Months.

Paternity Leave: -

9. Qatar

Maternity Leave: 14 Weeks.

Paternity Leave: -

Working women in Qatar also have the option of extending their leave by 20 more unpaid days.

10. Kuwait

Maternity Leave: 70 Days.

Paternity Leave: -

In many western countries, maternity and paternity leaves are much longer than those in the Arab World, especially as studies have shown that a family-friendly environment drastically affects employees' loyalty and productivity. In Sweden for example, both parents have 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave at about 80% of their salary. 

Are you in favor of men and women taking leave together to take care of their newborn? What else would you like to change to make the Arab countries more family-friendly?

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