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Women are beginning to play a vital role in GCC businesses – and society’s reaping the benefits.
June 30, 2012 7:03 by Reuters
The government hopes to create 1.12 million new jobs for Saudi nationals by 2014, or 92 percent of all new jobs created. The government plans for 75 percent of the private-sector workforce to be nationalized. There is a clear opportunity in the region to address these issues by employing greater numbers of GCC women. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, bringing more women into the workforce can give these companies a competitive edge.
However, thus far the talent pool of women employees in the region remains largely untapped, due to social, occupational, and legal challenges. In many regional markets, women represent a better-educated talent pool than the population at large. Women in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia constitute 67 percent, 63 percent, and 57 percent, respectively, of university graduates.
Despite these education levels, the percentage of women in the labor force in GCC countries is significantly lower than in other countries, particularly global leaders like Norway, Switzerland, and Canada.
For instance, in Kuwait, nearly four of every five unemployed workers are women. Among the unemployed in the UAE, national women have higher education levels than men. This persistent problem is changing slowly, if at all. In 2001, Saudi Arabia’s unemployment level for women was around 10 percentage points higher than that for men; in 2009 the disparity in Saudi Arabia was even greater: 28.4 percent unemployment for women versus 6.9 percent for men.
As with overall unemployment, this issue is most evident in the corporate world – private and semi-private organizations in the GCC do not rely heavily on GCC nationals to fill their employment needs, and they rely even less on women as a group. In 2009, only 6.9 percent of female Saudis in the workforce worked in the private sector, compared with 17.7 percent of Saudi men; similarly, in Qatar, just 2.9 percent of Qatari women worked in the private sector, compared with 5.6 percent of Qatari men.