Arab women are main victim of unemployment

Women in the Arab world have remained the main victims of festering unemployment despite efforts by some regional nations to give more jobs to females, according to official data.

Except for Palestine and Libya, unemployment rates among women are far higher than among men while many regional countries still suffer from a general joblessness problem.

The figures by the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) showed female unemployment in the Arab world is the highest in Yemen, standing at 40.9 per cent t the end of 2009. Unemployment among men was put at around 11.5 per cent.

The rate was put at 30.4 per cent in Mauritania against 29.7 per cent for men, 24.4 per cent in Jordan against10.1 per cent for men, and 22.9 per cent in Egypt against 5.3 per cent for men.

In conflict-battered Iraq, unemployment stood at 19.5 per cent among women and 15.1 per cent among men while in Tunisia it was put at 19 per cent among females and 13 per cent among males.

Female joblessness in Palestine also stood at 19 per cent but was below the 24.5 per cent rate among men. Libya also had a lower female jobless rate of 18 per cent against 21 per cent among men.

In the oil-rich Gulf, which has the lowest unemployment rates in the region given their her per capita income, women in Saudi Arabia emerged as the main victim, with unemployment among them standing at around 15 per cent against four per cent for men.

Unemployment among women in the UAE was also relatively high at around 12 pert cent against only two per cent for men.

In Qatar, which has the lowest joblessness rate in the Middle East, unemployment among women was estimated at about 34 per cent against 1.6 per cent among men. Female joblessness in Kuwait stood at 3.1 per cent while that among men was 0.8 per cent.

Experts said the high female unemployment in the Arab countries was a result of social barriers in most of them, relatively lower educational levels and preference by the private sector of men.

The report showed Egypt had the highest number of unemployed people at the end of 2009, standing at 2.37 million or nearly 5.4 per cent. Sudan had around 2.27 million or about 19.7 per cent.

War-torn Somalia had the third highest number of 1.72 million, nearly 34.7 per cent of the total work force.

The number was put at 1.29 million in Iraq or around 14.7 per cent and nearly 1.07 million in Morocco, accounting for 9.1 per cent.

The number of unemployed people in the UAE was put at 126,000 while it stood at only 4,000 each in Qatar and Kuwait and around 6,000 in Bahrain. The number was estimated at around 71,000 in Oman and nearly 463,000 in Saudi Arabia.

The AMF, a key Arab League institution, said in a previous study that regional countries need to create at least 40 million jobs by 2020 to tackle unemployment, caused mainly by high population growth and poor economic performance in many members.

Although it was cut from around 14.3 per cent in 1990 to about 13.5 per cent in 2009, unemployment in the region is still the highest in the world and requires intensification of reforms to spur economic growth and ensure jobs for unemployed citizens, mostly the youth, it said.

“As a group, the Arab countries are suffering from the highest unemployment rates in the world despite a slight improvement in the past years….the Arab joblessness rate is now above 13 per cent compared to an international average of nearly 5.7 per cent,” it said.

“The improvement over the past years has been mainly a result of greater participation by the private sector…but the region now faces a serious challenge in matching the rapid growth in the population and labour force and how to ensure jobs for those who are about to join the labour market, mainly the youth, who account for nearly 50 per cent of the total jobless Arabs….if the Arab countries want to face that challenge and reduce unemployment by half, they will have to create nearly 40 million jobs by 2020.”


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