Gender equality and non-discrimination

Arab women face a plethora of challenges in the world of work including exclusion from access to employment and social protection, limited representation, as well as the inability to actively and effectively voice their needs.

Data shows that the status of Arab women is undoubtedly central to addressing the challenges faced by economies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Even though Arab women have achieved high levels of education, this has not translated into economic outcomes. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Development Programme’s joint publication on economic growth in the MENA, the region still maintains the lowest rate of female economic participation in the world at 26 per cent relative to a global average of 56 per cent. Labour force participation rates for men average 76 per cent in the region, just above the global average of 74 per cent.

The ILO Response

The ILO Regional Office for Arab States supports governments, workers, employers and civil society to develop social and economic policies that promote gender equality and equal opportunities in the workplace. Technical assistance is provided in a number of areas throughout the region and is aimed at:
  • Increasing women’s participation and role in workers’ unions and employers’ organizations;
  • supporting newly established national committees for women’s employment and economic empowerment;
  • transferring entrepreneurship development skills as well as promoting cooperatives and business groups;
  • assisting technical vocational education and training institutions to better address gender stereotypes in skills development;
  • promoting the rights of female migrant domestic workers; and
  • promoting research and capacity building on issues related to pay equity, maternity protection, as well as child care solutions and gender-based violence in the workplace.

Focus Areas in the Arab States

  • International labour standards related to gender equality and non-discrimination: The ratification and application of ILO key gender equality conventions remain of crucial importance to improve the prospects of women in the region. See more...
  • Pay equity: Ensuring that the work done by women and men is valued fairly and as well as bringing end to pay discrimination are essential to achieving gender equality and a core component of decent work. See more...
  • Decent Work for Domestic Workers: Domestic workers comprise a significant part of the global workforce in informal employment and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers. In the Arab states, domestic workers are primarily migrant women. Many of them are exposed to deplorable working conditions, labour exploitation, and abuses. The ILO endeavours to protect the rights of domestic workers, promote equality of opportunity and treatment, as well as improve working and living conditions of domestic workers. See more...
  • Gender Mainstreaming in Labour Statistics: Gender issues relate to the differences and similarities that exist between men and women in relation to their contributions, their conditions of work and life, as well as their needs, constraints and opportunities. In labour statistics, these aspects need to be reflected in definitions, measurement methods and presentation of results in order to improve the description of the labour market and provide a solid basis for promoting equality between men and women in the world of work. The ILO supports Arab States in developing national statistics on gender to ensure this dimension is captured and reported in line with international standards. See more...
  • Violence in the workplace: Workplace violence includes any action, incident or behavior in which a person is assaulted, threatened, harmed, injured in the course of, or as a result of, his or her work. It can take on the form of murder, assault, rape, sexual harassment, threats, bullying, mobbing and verbal abuse. Together with its tripartite partners, the ILO works towards promoting violence-free working environment.
  • Labour inspection, gender equality and non-discrimination: Labour administration, with its inspection function, plays a vital role in implementing and enforcing the legal provisions that promote gender equality. The ILO works towards ensuring that labour inspections are sensitive towards issues related to gender equality in the Arab States.