Wednesday 20, December 2017 by Jessica Combes

Most working women in Middle East believe labour laws are fair


With every passing year, workplace equality becomes a higher priority for organisations around the world and those in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are no exception.

According to the Working Women in the Middle East and North Africa survey by job site, and global online market research company, YouGov, almost all working women who provided an answer (88.5 per cent) believe that the labour laws in their country of residence are fair to women.

The survey sought to explore the status of working women in the MENA region by analysing their perceptions when it comes to equality at work and looking into their motivations for employment, challenges faced at work, as well as career and life ambitions. When asked about workplace equality, the survey revealed that more than three quarters of respondents who answered this question believe that women in the MENA have reached the same level of workplace equality as women do in western countries.

Workplace equality in MENA
Three quarters (75 per cent) of respondents say that there is a mix of men and women working in the same workplace. What’s more, over two thirds (68 per cent) of women in the MENA say they are comfortable working in a mixed gender environment, with 44 per cent claiming to be extremely comfortable. 26 per cent were neutral in this aspect, while only 4 per cent said they are uncomfortable.

While three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents working in a mixed-gender environment report having a male manager at their current organisation, nearly the same proportion (73 per cent) have no gender-based preference for a manager.

In the MENA, 65 per cent of respondents report that they work almost an equal number of hours as their male colleagues, 9 per cent believe they work less hours than their male counterparts, and 19 per cent said they work more hours. 8 per cent did not provide an answer.

As for women-specific benefits in the workplace, the top five benefits MENA respondents receive from their organisations are personal health insurance (47 per cent), paid maternity leave (40 per cent), company transport/transport allowance (34 per cent), job-related training (32 per cent), and family health insurance (23 per cent). Regionally, more than two thirds (69 per cent) of women say their organisation gives them at least one month of official maternity leave. 5 per cent said their maternity leave is less than one month and only nine per cent said they do not have an official maternity leave policy and 19 per cent of respondents did not know what the policy is.

Challenges for working women in MENA
The top three challenges cited by MENA women in their workplace are less opportunity for job promotions (44 per cent), a stressful and demanding work environment (37 per cent), and a lack of or insufficient job training and coaching (30 per cent).

Outside of the workplace, when asked about the key challenges in their life, finding good job opportunities (57 per cent), lack of opportunities to improve their professional skills (41 per cent), and not having enough opportunities to relax or socialise (36 per cent) emerged as top three challenges for women in the MENA.

Despite these challenges, a majority of female respondents believe women and men are treated equally in the workplace across a variety of areas, including working hours (68 per cent), training and development (68 per cent), advice and support (60 per cent), recruitment and selection (56 per cent) and benefits (55 per cent).

“It is a given that women play a vital role in the workplace today, and we are glad to see that in the MENA region, organisations are doing much more to accommodate women and promote workplace equality. The results from this year’s ‘Working Women’ survey indicate that organisations in the region are making excellent strides towards achieving total gender balance, even since last year. At, we take pride in our extensive equal opportunity practices and the presence of female employees in every level of our organisation. We also make it a point to provide the tools and information that support other companies to enhance their hiring practices and that give equal access to our female job seekers, in the region and around the globe,” said Rania Nseir, Director of Business Development, 

Career Outlooks for Women in the MENA
Women’s happiness in the region is largely career-oriented, with having a successful career (49 per cent) emerging as the top driver of happiness. This was followed by good health (42 per cent), travelling and visiting other countries (36 per cent), spending time with their families (34 per cent), and making money (29 per cent).

Moreover, women in the MENA cite financial independence (59 per cent), the ability to support/financially contribute to their households (50 per cent), the opportunity to broaden their perspectives on life (46 per cent), making use of their education (42 per cent), and securing their family and children’s futures (40 per cent) as their top five reasons for seeking employment.

At the same time, women around the world understand the importance of finding balance between their responsibilities at home and at work. In the MENA, more than half (54 per cent) of respondents with children stated that their decision to have children has affected their career, at least to some extent, while 41 per cent said it did not affect it at all.

Further, over half (52 per cent) of those surveyed believe their future marriage plans would affect their career choices, at least to some extent, while 29 per cent said it would not affect it at all and 19 per cent did not know. However, the majority of female respondents who are married indicated that their career choices had created either a positive effect (36 per cent) or no effect (34 per cent) on their marital life.

“As the world progresses to bring gender equality to the workplace on a greater scale, perceptions and opinions like those found in this survey provide valuable insight into what is working well and where organisations may need to improve. This survey seeks to better inform organisations in the MENA region and around the world on how they can facilitate workplace equality for their employees – and particularly those that balance their careers with a family and other personal responsibilities,” said Anjali Chhabra, YouGov Associate Research Director.

Data for the Working Women in the Middle East and North Africa survey was collected online from October 26 to November 26, 2017, with 4053 female respondents living in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and the UAE.

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