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Arab women key victim of unemployment

Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, had the highest number of unemployed people, standing at 2.33 million or nearly 8.9 per cent.
Zawya | 18.03.2012
Women in the Arab countries continue to suffer more from festering unemployment problems despite a campaign by some regional nations to tear down social barriers and give females more jobs.

While joblessness has been cut in many Arab nations over the past few years, the rate has remained high among women, according to official data.

Libya emerged as the only Arab state with unemployment among its men exceeding that of women, the Arab League said in a report.

The figures showed female unemployment in the Arab world is at its highest level in Mauritania, standing at around 44 per cent t the end of 2010. Unemployment among men was put at around 23.9 per cent.
The rate was stood at about 40.9 per cent in Yemen against 11.5 per cent for men, 32.6 per cent in Palestine against 25.4 per cent for men, and 24.1 per cent in Jordan compared to 10.3 per cent among men.

In conflict-battered Iraq, unemployment stood at 19.6 per cent among women and 14.3 per cent among men while in Tunisia it was put at 19 per cent among females and 10.9 per cent among males.
Female and male unemployment rates stood at 9.8 and 9.6 per cent respectively in Morocco and 19.1 and 8.7 per cent in Algeria.

The report gave no gender breakdown for such countries with high joblessness rates as Djibouti, Comoros, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

In the oil-rich Gulf countries, which have 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 at the end of 2010.

Unemployment among women in the UAE was also relatively high at around 10.8 per cent against only 2.4 per cent for men.
In Qatar, which has the lowest joblessness rate in the Middle East, unemployment among women was estimated at about 1.9 per cent against 0.1 per cent among men. Female joblessness in Kuwait stood at about 3.1 per cent while that among men was 0.8 per cent.

Libya emerged as the one odd out, with unemployment among its women standing at 18 per cent against 21 per cent among men.

Experts believe the high female unemployment in the Arab world is a result of social barriers in most regional nations, relatively lower educational levels and preference of men by the private sector.

The report showed Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, had the highest number of unemployed people, standing at 2.33 million or nearly 8.9 per cent. Sudan had around 2.7 million or about 20.7 per cent.

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

The number was put at 1.29 million in Iraq or around 15.4 per cent and nearly 1.037 million in Morocco, accounting for 9.1 per cent.

The number of unemployed people in the UAE totalled 232,000 while it stood at only 5,800 in Qatar, 17,300 Kuwait and around 5,200 in Bahrain. It was estimated at around 70,700 in Oman and nearly 463,000 in Saudi Arabia.

In a recent study, the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), an affiliate of the Arab League, said 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 per cent in 2010, 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," the AMF 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, mainl y 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 020."
About the author: Zawya