Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 April 2020

Global Women's Forum Dubai: gender pay equality in Middle East still '150 years away'

Senior IMF figure issues warning at Global Women's Forum in Dubai

The panel at Global Women's Forum discuss the challenges of closing the gender pay gap on Monday afternoon. Picture: Pawan Singh / The National
The panel at Global Women's Forum discuss the challenges of closing the gender pay gap on Monday afternoon. Picture: Pawan Singh / The National

It could be more than 150 years before gender pay equality is achieved in the Middle East and North Africa, a Dubai conference heard.

The stark warning was issued by Taline Koranchelian, Middle East and Central Asia deputy director of the International Monetary Fund, on the second day of the Global Women’s Forum in Dubai.

“We will need more than 150 years to reach gender parity in the Middle East and North Africa

Taline Koranchelian, Middle East and Central Asia deputy director of the International Monetary Fund

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently predicted it could take 108 years for the gap between men and women’s pay to be closed globally.

However, Ms Koranchelian said it would take even longer in this region because it was in the bottom 25 percentile worldwide for pay gaps between the genders.

“We will need more than 150 years to reach gender parity in the Middle East and North Africa if we keep the same policies we have today,” she said.

“It will be important to have specific policies targeted at women to provide equal opportunities.”

The areas in need of specific focus, she said, were education, financial access, legal barriers against women’s inheritance laws and asset ownerships plus the introduction of additional measures to facilitate balancing between work and family.

The UAE ranked 120th overall in the WEF Global Gender Gap Index 2020, out of 153 countries.

She said it was not just policies aimed specifically at women that the region’s economy required.

“There is a need for broader policies aimed at creating jobs for both men and women and boost growth,” she said.

“On its own though that won’t be enough.”

Speaking on the same panel discussion was Shamsa Saleh, UAE Gender Balance Council Secretary.

She said there was an urgent need to educate children on the importance of gender equality.

“Starting from early childhood we need to change the perception of children that a woman should be a housewife and the man is the worker,” she said.

“One way to do that is through the curriculum and ensuring education begins at an early age.”

She also called for the introduction of legislation specifically promoting gender equality throughout the region.

One of the biggest obstacles to reducing the gender pay gap were social norms and perceptions, which a leading UN figure described as “underlying sticky issues”.

“Much progress has been made with violence against women. Now more than three quarters of countries in the world have laws against domestic violence,” said Zohra Khan, global policy adviser, governance and national planning at UN Women.

“However, 18 per cent of women said they have experienced domestic violence in the last 12 months.”

She said women were still lagging behind in terms of participation in the workplace and roughly three quarters of AI and data jobs across the globe were held by men.

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In pictures: Global Women's Forum

Updated: February 18, 2020 08:02 AM

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