Young Arab women “struggling to find jobs”

Author: PM Editorial | Date: 16 Dec 2015

Offering benefits that matter to women is crucial, says EFE report

Fewer than one in three Arab women are in work across much of the MENA region, and they are struggling to find stable jobs, according to a report by Education for Employment (EFE).
It has been estimated that if women’s employment levels in the Middle East equalled that of men, regional GDP could rise by almost 50 per cent over the next decade.
The report by EFE concluded that there are four areas of focus which would improve women’s chances of finding work: “Enhancing young women’s pathways to a job; equipping job seekers with the right skills and expectations; focusing workplace benefits and policies on what really matters to young women; and increasing the demand for women employees in the workplace.”
The importance of benefits aimed at working mothers, such as nursery or daycare facilities, are being neglected, and without these many young women are put off entering the workforce. While some employers are actively trying to hire more women, they are focusing on policies that are considered to be of low importance, such as having female supervisors.
Opportunities at NGOs or in government positions are not visible enough to young women, and half of those surveyed for the report said personal contacts are still the most useful way to find a job. More could be done to advertise potential career paths at educational institutions, said the report. And there is also a lack of faith that internships lead to paid jobs – organisations could improve the internship-to-employment pathway.
Many of the issues that young women face are not gender-specific. Education systems in the region are growing faster than the economy can provide jobs for its burgeoning number of graduates. Nepotism or wasta also plays a part in restricting the chances of young, inexperienced workers to find jobs in the private sector.
But it is widely accepted that these problems are experienced more acutely by women and they also have to contend with potential employers worrying they will stop working when they start a family. A lack of organisations offering flexible hours, which allow women to care for a family while working, is also a big barrier to employment.
One question in the report asked employers if they had a gender preference when hiring candidates with similar qualifications and backgrounds. Of the male respondents, only 53 per cent said gender was not important, while 30 per cent would rather hire a man. The female response was more balanced, as 73 per cent said gender didn’t matter.
Encouraging higher rates of female employment is something all organisations in the Middle East should do, concluded the EFE, but of those asked, only 23 per cent of employers said they had policies in place to do so.