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Tue 1 Nov 2011 07:06 PM

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GCC still lags world on gender equality, says WEF

New World Economic Forum study shows no Gulf nation in top 100 of global list

GCC still lags world on gender equality, says WEF
Arab women mall
GCC still lags world on gender equality, says WEF

Arab world countries continue to lag the rest of the world when it comes to gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2011.

Published on Tuesday, the latest global list showed no Middle East country in the top 100 of 135 nations covered.

In the Gulf region, the UAE was the highest ranked in 103rd position, followed by Kuwait (105), Bahrain (110), Qatar (111), Oman (127) and Saudi Arabia (131). Yemen was rock bottom in 135th place.

Despite Saudi Arabia's lowly ranking, WEF said it was one of the highest climbers of the 114 countries that have been included in the report since 2006.

Last month, Saudi Arabia granted women the right to vote for the first time in its modern history as part of changes King Abdullah said will let them run in future municipal elections.

Saudi Arabia enforces gender restrictions interpreted from the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam.

Men and women are strictly segregated in public, including at schools, restaurants and lines at fast-food takeouts. That keeps women out of sales jobs in malls and stores, unless the outlet caters exclusively to a female clientele.

“A world where women make up less than 20 percent of the global decision-makers is a world that is missing a huge opportunity for growth and ignoring an untapped reservoir of potential,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum.

The report said that while 85 percent of countries are improving their gender equality ratios, for the rest of the world the situation is declining, most notably in several African and South American countries.

The sixth annual study showed a slight decline over the last year in gender equality rankings for New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom, while gains were made in Brazil, Ethiopia, Qatar, Tanzania and Turkey.

Nordic countries (Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) continued to hold top spots having closed over 80 percent of their gender gaps, while countries at the bottom of the rankings - including most of the Middle East - still needed to close as much as 50 percent.

“Smaller gender gaps are directly correlated with increased economic competitiveness,” said Saadia Zahidi, senior director, head of the World Economic Forum’s Women Leaders and Gender Parity Programme and report co-author.

“With the world’s attention on job creation and economic growth, gender equality is the key to unlocking potential and stimulating economies."

The report said international scores for health and education were encouraging with 96 percent of the health gaps and 93 percent of the education gaps already closed.

Around the world, economic and political participation continue to show the largest gaps.

“Female healthy life expectancy and literacy levels remain alarmingly low across many parts of Africa and Asia. In Latin America, women have more schooling than men but marriage and motherhood are still not compatible with a fuller economic and political participation of women. We’ve come a long way but there is still a long road ahead of us,” said report co-author Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University.

The Global Gender Gap Report’s index assessed 135 countries, representing more than 93 percent of the world’s population, on how well resources and opportunities are divided among male and female populations.

The report measured the size of the gender inequality gap in economic participation and opportunity; education; political empowerment; and health and survival.

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online

Mohammed Mubin 8 years ago

WEST please don't measure us by your scales. Infact these scales are innovated to malign our Youth and contaminate young minds of our community.

WEST must know that we Islam oriented Muslims don't follow their culture but the book and law of the book i.e. QURAN which was sent by Almighty for the whole mankind.

Why are WEST economies struggling in debt when they have such gender equality and working women. With women working as hard as men, they have definitely helped western economies grow but now with no children to take over and continue the development, WEST today has no option but to adopt immigration policies and import man power from other countries to sustain the development.

I am not being averse to women working but going overboard and destroying family structures is what requires attention. This system of WEST will wean the responsibility of Women of their motherhoods and is already creating imbalance in the goodness of the society.

abdul hafeez sheikh 8 years ago

There is no version of Islam, and we should not say talk about Islam with reference to any version . The rights of women have been given in Quran and there is no dispute about in any Version I propose the report writers to study Quran and then check about their own version which is based on poor know how . KSA is center of Islamic World and there is no version , all Muslim pay in the same place and at the same time in Makka during Haj and Umrah and women have equal rights to perfome the Haj and Umrah in the same manner and have equal rights .

Roula 8 years ago

With respect to all religions, equality of genders addressing all issues is only fair and natural.It is not a religious issue.God created us equal and differentiated tasks.What happens when a husband is suddenly crippled unable to work or even dies?Doesn't the wife automatically become the breadwinner???
So please don't promote your personal views to protect 'Man' mutual benefits!!!Keeping woman ignorant and at a less educational and finnancial levet means she will always depend on the man.Is this what the Middle East and other unequal gender based countries aiming at??? Are men really afraid to loose their power and authority???

procan 8 years ago

I wonder what Margret Thatcher would have say on this subject.

John 8 years ago

Dear Abdul hafeeze Sheikh,

Please tell me what rights the Quran gave woman.

garry 8 years ago

@ Mohammed Mubin - what are you babbling on about? The GCC is lucrative because you found oil and because expats are running things. That inclues pumping the oil and gas out of the ground for you, by the way. So without oil and without expats you would not have an economy!

With regards to "WEST please don't measure us by your scales."... I think you should look at your own government as it is them who are looking to be taken seriously on the global stage. To be fair the vast majority of westerners could not care less about the middle east.

SAM 8 years ago

So out of 196 countries in the world, the study covered 135 countries, which is fine. Saudi Arabia has been slowly but steadily climbing since 2006, which is a good thing, while New Zealand, U.K. and Spain are showing a slight decline, which is not . I do not see anything very negative in this report. Anyone who lives in the UAE knows that females are working in governmental jobs and the government is working hard to provide females with job opportunities; I have no clue if expat run companies are following suit or not. at any rate, this region is moving in the right direction, albeit at a slow pace. Dismissive comments that they should move faster should consider that many social issues of great importance move very slow in this region and it is not limited to gender equality issue.

layla 8 years ago

I agree the Qur'an gave women many rights and protections. but MAN is the one who twists these right to suit their own needs.

layla 8 years ago

I care and I am American. i think some of the rules for women is for protection. other rules i think is just the domination of men over women.

WHJ 8 years ago

And yet a lot of you are trying to escape the harsh realities of your failing economies and rushing to work in the GCC. Hmmm....interesting way of showing that you couldn't care less.