One in three Arab women participates in workforce, says study

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CAIRO: Only one in three Arab young women participates in their country’s labor force as opposed to eight in 10 Arab men, a recent poll showed.

Only 32 percent of Arab women between the ages of 23 and 29 participate in the workforce compared to 81 percent of men in the same age group.

Gallup surveyed subjects across 22 Arab countries in 2011 where the gender gap was consistent, however, the female labor force is slightly higher in low-income countries that their higher-income counterparts.

Thirty-six percent of women in low-income countries are part of the labor force, compared to 28 percent in high-income countries.

These findings are based on a new Silatech Index report, “Workforce Participation Linked to Wellbeing Differences Among Young Arab Women,” prepared in partnership with Gallup.

The index examines the relationship between young women’s participation in the workforce and their life evaluations, emotional state, and economic optimism.

“In many Arab countries, chronic job shortages combined with cultural factors, such as pressure on employers to give young men jobs that enable them to marry and start families, may limit employment opportunities for young women,” Gallup said.

Women aged 23–29 are as highly educated as men in high-income countries, with a narrow gab between men and women in low-income countries.

Eighty percent of women aged 23–29 have a secondary education in high-income countries, compared to 79 percent of men, whereas in low-income countries only 33 percent of women and 48 percent of men have a secondary education.

However, most young women and men surveyed support including women in the workforce.

Eighty-eight percent of women in high-income countries agreed that women should be allowed to hold any job for which they are qualified outside the home, as opposed to 80 percent of men.

The percentage slightly decreases in low-income countries with 86 percent of women and 71 percent of men agreeing to the same statement.

“Slow-to-change cultural and institutional patterns are one reason why large gender gaps persist in workforce participation among young Arabs,” Gallup concluded, “Balancing family-life demands, particularly child rearing, can be challenging for women – but particularly in countries where laws regarding gender discrimination and benefits for working women (such as maternity leave) are inadequate or loosely enforced.”

The report also implied that women may not find enough job opportunities in countries where unemployment is already high for example.

It added that women in some societies “may also lack professional female peers to provide mentoring and networking opportunities to them.”



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