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Home-working ‘can offer GCC women a chance’

Dubai, August 17, 2011

Home-working initiatives are the key to involving GCC women in national workforces and thus boosting local economies and increase nationalisation rates, a report has said.  

The research report, ‘Maximising Women’s participation in the GCC Workforce’, was released by Cass Business School Dubai.

According to the Oxford Strategic Consulting (OSC) report prepared by UK and Gulf academics, including Professor Chris Rowley, director of the Centre for Research on Asian Management, Cass Business School, London, the GCC population is 48 per cent female, yet the rate of female participation in the workforce across the Gulf states stands at less than 20 per cent.

Focusing on Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the report recognises the success of the Dubai Women’s Establishment five-year plan, which was launched in 2008 to increase the number of female leaders in the country, and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Programme for Leadership Development’s ‘UAE Women’s Leadership Programme’, which aims to establish  female national leaders in the Emirate. 

The report also recognises the efforts of the Government of Abu Dhabi’s ‘Abu Dhabi 2030 Economic Vision Report’, which seeks to further economic development in the Emirate, with an emphasis on the maximisation of female nationals’ participation in the workforce . 

Professor Chris Rowley said: “Such initiatives show that at both a ministerial and social level, there is progressive thought with regards to improving rates of female economic participation in the UAE.  It is also important to acknowledge that in the UAE and other GCC States that the gap in female employment is not due to a gap in education. 

“The various GCC governments have rapidly improved access to higher education, to the extent that 77 per cent of women achieve university degrees in UAE. Home-working schemes would be consistent with government programmes to enable sustainable development of women’s roles in the UAE, these programmes are essential to accommodate rising levels of qualified female graduates from UAE universities ready to enter the workforce.”

 There is also the fact that some 58 per cent of the GCC labour force is expatriate, with governments keen to reduce dependency on expatriate labour, investing heavily in nationalisation of respective workforces.  The report suggests that GCC governments have the ability to reduce this dependency, which is detrimental in the long term, by establishing a new trend of home-working which will bring qualified females into professional roles.

“Providing more jobs for GCC nationals has been an underlying goal in governments’ visions for the future and home-working can be successfully integrated into GCC economies, resulting in socio-economic benefits through increased employment of national women, and paving the way for sustainable growth and gender parity in line with current government strategies”, Professor Rowley continued.

The report highlights that compared to other GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia for example, cultural and organisational restrictions are much fewer in UAE, where men will work for women and women hold senior positions in organisations.  

As in other countries where home-working is popular, women often find that home-working offers  a solution to a the problematic  balance of work and family commitments – especially as the UAE is a market where alternatives to full-time positions, such as job-share and part-time hours, are uncommon. 

Geographical isolation is also a factor for many qualified national women, who live in remote areas of the UAE such as the western region of Abu Dhabi or the eastern regions of Sharjah.  By working from home, the report suggests that these qualified women will be able to participate in the national workforce and utilise their university educations.

OSC conducted a survey of 50 public and private sector companies across the GCC to assess attitudes to home-working for professional women. According to findings, 53 per cent of those surveyed expressed that the two major perceived obstacles to home-working for qualified women in the GCC were concerns over commitment / responsibility to independently work, and management style.

Countering that these obstacles were common in all countries that have introduced home-working, the authors highlighted that the practice of home-working is largely accepted in Europe and the US. 

Professor Rowley acknowledges common concerns claiming, “There are certainly people that are better suited to home-working; those that are self-managing, committed, able to work alone and good time managers for example.  Internationally, attitudes have changed so that both parties now see home-working as an accepted way of working where managers understand that they must trust their home-workers, and home workers generally understand that they must live up to that trust.” 

In initial surveys on the potential success of implementing a company that offers home-working services employing female GCC nationals, 85 per cent of respondents indicated that they were open to the idea of using use such a service. 

Encouraged, Professor Rowley insists that initial investment is key, and that would be in the interests of GCC governments to help fund the formation of such a company. 

The report concludes that home-working is a well proven approach to work and will, if implemented correctly across the GCC region, add over 2 million additional highly qualified women to the workforce and potentially contribute up to 30 per cent ($363 billion) to GCC GDP (given a total GDP of $1,210 billion). – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Cass Business School | Home-working | female workforce |

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