x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE drops to 112th in global gender equality

A fall in the number of female 'professional and technical workers' has resulted in the UAE losing ground in an annual worldwide assessment of gender equality.

The number of women who are classed as 'professional and technical workers' has dropped.
The number of women who are classed as 'professional and technical workers' has dropped.

A fall in the number of female "professional and technical workers" has resulted in the UAE losing ground in an annual worldwide assessment of gender equality. The Emirates was placed in 112th position, down from 105th last year, out of the 130 countries covered in the Gender Gap Index report by the World Economic Forum, a respected Switzerland-based non-profit.

The Middle East fared poorly overall. The UAE was fourth in the region, behind Israel (45), Kuwait (105) and Tunisia (109), but ahead of Jordan, Syria and Bahrain. The report was compiled by Saadia Zahidi, the forum's associate director and head of its women leaders' programme, Laura Tyson, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Ricardo Hausmann, the director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University.

"Most Middle East and North Africa region countries not only continue to perform far below the global average, but also do not show much improvement over the last year or have deteriorated," said the authors. The report is based on information provided by the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, the UN and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Gender Gap Index rates the differences in economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival levels and political empowerment between men and women in individual countries.

The drop in the UAE's rankings was attributed to a decline in the percentage of women in the country who are "professional and technical workers", from 25 per cent last year to 21 per cent this year. That category includes women working in science and engineering, health, teaching, business and administration, information technology and communications, as well as legal, social and cultural workers.

The percentage of female high school graduates who enrol in UAE universities also fell slightly, from 37 to 35 per cent. However, the report noted that enrolment was higher for women than men in the country, and praised the UAE's commitment to funding female education. The UAE was one of the countries that "have invested large amounts of resources in increasing women's education levels and will now need to better integrate these women into the economy to reap the benefits of this investment".

The high proportion of females in higher education was because "many high-school and university graduate women are aware of competition and discrimination at work," said Dr Nawar Golley, an associate professor specialising in women's studies at the American University of Sharjah. "Pursuing higher degrees is a way to further empower them in order to get better work opportunities and shield them from discriminatory circumstances."

The index found the UAE performed above average in wage equality between males and females, with women earning, on average, a quarter of what men did. However, the country did poorly in overall female participation in the workforce. Only 41 per cent of women join the labour force as opposed to 93 per cent of men. Nonetheless, Dr Golley said the UAE's position was likely to improve over the next few years "as the results of women's empowerment in the country will start showing material manifestation".

@Email:kshaheen@thenational.ae