x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Closing Al Gharbia's gender gap

Women in the UAE: A lack of opportunities in the Western Region has led to less than 5 per cent of female participation in the local labour force, according to the latest report by the Department of Economic Development.

A technician at Strata's manufacturing plant in Al Ain. Female nationals account for 20 per cent of the workforce in the city. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters
A technician at Strata's manufacturing plant in Al Ain. Female nationals account for 20 per cent of the workforce in the city. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters

A lack of opportunities in the Western Region has led to less than 5 per cent of female participation in the local labour force, according to the latest report by the Department of Economic Development.

"Because Al Gharbia's economy is still centred around the petroleum industry, which has been traditionally male-dominated, women in the Western Region face a shortage of desirable jobs," the department said in its Abu Dhabi Competitiveness Report.

The figures are in contrast with Abu Dhabi city and Al Ain, in which female nationals account for 15 per cent and 20 per cent of the workforce, respectively.

"Both Al Ain and Abu Dhabi city have provided job opportunities for women, largely in education and the public sector," the report said.

"The prevalence of schools and universities, as well as the availability of jobs in knowledge services, have attracted local women into the workforce."

Al Ain's higher female participation rate has been boosted as a result of Mubadala's Strata plant, an airframe manufacturing facility that has contracts to build parts for Boeing, Airbus and Finmeccanica-Alenia Aeronautica, makers of the commuter turboprop ATR.

About 80 per cent of UAE national employees at Strata are female.

"There are a lot of females in Al Ain that get educated, but don't get the right amount of jobs or challenges they are aspiring due to limited industrial employment," said Homaid Abdullah Al Shemmari, the executive director at Mubadala Aerospace.

"Their families traditionally don't allow them to go to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, whereas males have the opportunities to move.

"There is a concentration of people who are sitting in Al Ain who are eager to participate."

Strata has also focused on a niche of Emirati high school graduates, Mr Al Shemmari said.

"Some don't want to go to university or colleges, or got married or whatever reason could not complete university," he said.

"They now have a job where they train for 22 months and then start manufacturing parts for aircraft that are flown all over the world."

Just under 10 per cent of nationals in Abu Dhabi hold university degrees, with the Western Region ranking the lowest across the emirate. The Western Region "lacks the presence of higher education institutes, the report said.

"Without a major technical or petrochemical university devoted to exploiting the region's vast reserves of oil and gas, most students have to leave the region for Abu Dhabi city or Al Ain.

"More importantly, the region has not been able to provide enough high-skilled jobs for graduates to attract them to work and set up businesses in Al Gharbia upon graduation."

With the introduction of projects in the Western Region, such as the Shams 1 solar plant and the Barakah nuclear plant, the figures are likely to improve. "These initiatives are commendable, and necessary to grow the human capital skill base in Al Gharbia," the report said.

"Increased investment in specific skills training for target industries should remain a key priority going forward."

 

halsayegh@thenational.ae