Jerusalem24 – Palestinian women with advanced educational degrees are less likely to be employed in the workforce than anywhere else in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, a new report by the World Bank has found.
While 16% of male workers with advanced degrees are unemployed across the West Bank and Gaza, a full 53% of skilled Palestinian female workers face unemployment.
A global problem
While evidence of the persisting employment gender gap can be found globally, it is most pronounced across the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA) region and South Asia.
The share of firms with female top managers stands at 7% in the MENA region, compared to East Asia and the Pacific’s highest share of 33%.
The share of firms with female participation in ownership stands at 19% in the MENA region, versus a full 50% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The MENA region also stands out in labor force participation rates with the widest gap worldwide between men and women (77% for males versus 21% for females). However, men’s labor force participation rates are unequivocally higher than women’s across all regions worldwide.
This is despite significantly higher university enrollment rates for women across all regions with the exception of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Education is not the issue
While the share of MENA female graduates is higher than the share of male graduates, and the share of MENA female graduates in STEM fields (engineering, natural sciences, and information and communication technologies) is significantly higher than the global average, having university degrees does not suffice to bridge the gender gap in employment.
The unemployment rate among skilled women in MENA is still higher than that for men, with a gap as high as 31 percentage points in West Bank and Gaza.
The World Bank report notes that educated women may have specific or higher expectations about work and are therefore more willing to wait for a job.
Palestine: Hopeful students turn into discouraged workers
Despite women’s achievements in STEM fields, there are few women in STEM occupations. In the West Bank and Gaza, women represent nearly half of information and communication technologies graduates, but only around 25% of the workforce in the same field.
This persistent gender gap is further revealed across the hierarchical order of the workplace.
While women represent nearly 20% of the workforce in Palestine, only 2% of those hold managerial positions. In contrast, over 20% of employed males are managers.
62% of young women in the West Bank and Gaza describe themselves as “discouraged workers”, defined as those who are not working, who have expressed a desire to work, but are not seeking work for a range of reasons – including not knowing how or where to seek work or no jobs being available in their area.At 70%, Gaza and the West Bank have one of the highest female youth unemployment rates in the MENA region, surpassed only by Libya (71%) and Djibouti (83%).
A combination of factors contributes to poor labor market outcomes and limited entrepreneurship among women in the region. Demand- and supply-side constraints, such as a lack of jobs and a skills mismatch—attributed to the overall disconnect between what is taught at schools and what is needed on the job—are important factors.
Other drivers of gender disparity include social or normative constraints that women face due to deeply entrenched patriarchal belief systems, legal restrictions that reinforce gender stereotypes and occupation segregation, and pervasive wage inequality.
Source: Energy Sector Management Assistance Program / The World Bank: ‘Toward More and Better Jobs for Women in Energy’