Bridging the Gender Gap in the Arab Region
[Something less-snarky-more-serious – for a change!]
Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) releases its Global Gender Gap Report, an analysis of the gap between men and women in the areas of health, education, politics and employment. Globally, the gap between men and women was measured at 32% in 2017, an increase from 31.7% in 2016. It was the first time the gap increased in a decade.
The WEF estimates that it will take 217 years to close the economic gender gap. This figure varies dramatically by region. For the Middle East and North Africa, equality is 580 years away. Two countries in the region – Syria and Yemen – are among the lowest in the world. Meanwhile, at the annual meeting in Davos, the WEF called for 2018 to be “the year for women to thrive”.
Meanwhile, in the Arab Region…
The region ranks lowest on the index – with an average gender gap of 40%. Among Arab countries, Tunisia ranks highest – at 114 of 144 counties. The UAE follows closely at 120, followed by Bahrain (126), Algeria (127), Egypt (134), Morocco (136), Lebanon (137), Saudi Arabia (138).
When isolating for political emancipation, it is no surprise that four of the five world’s worst countries are from the region – Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, and Yemen.
Despite this bleak picture, the region is progressing, having closed more than 60% of its overall gender gap. The WEF examines the Middle East and North Africa as a whole, including Israel, Turkey, and Iran, rather than isolating for Arab countries in particular. As such, there are significant differences within the region, and Israel continues to have the region’s smallest gender gap.
Following Israel is Tunisia, with a reduced gender gap due to additional ministerial positions and increased literacy, as well as improvements in health and survival. The UAE has also improved in terms of government representation and wage equality. Additionally, the country has nearly closed its educational attainment gap. Bahrain, another high-income Gulf country, has also made notable improvements.
On the other end of the spectrum, Algeria’s gap widened due to a larger gap in political empowerment, despite improvements in wage equality and healthy life expectancy. Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt also experienced both improvements and setbacks.
In Mauritania, wage equality and basic literacy both declined. Jordan, Morocco, and Lebanon made progress in terms of labor force participation, yet continue to regress in terms of political empowerment. The upcoming parliamentary election in Lebanon in May 2018 will reveal the extent to which the country is committed to women’s engagement in political life.
Despite its challenged gender equality record, Saudi Arabia closed its primary education gap and made some progress in the economic sector. It boasts the region’s largest improvement on the index in the last decade, as well as notable improvements in economic participation and educational attainment.
Although the Arab region has a long way to go, there are certain entry points for progress, assuming country governments and donors can work together to bring these to fruition in the foreseeable future.
Will save those for next time…