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Income Gap

Disparity in income between males and females is a worldwide problem. While women have been able to partially close the gap in many countries, this is still a persistent challenge. In the United States, studies show that women earn less than men in almost every occupation.20 Currently, they earn about 80 cents for each dollar that men make, and it will take till 2059

for women to reach equal pay. For women of color it will take longer, till the year 2248 for Black women and the year 2124 for Hispanic women.21 The pay gap has also been reported in many parts of the world including Canada (women make 74.2 cents for every dollar men make22), the United Kingdom (pay gap of 18.1%23), Sweden (13%24), and Australia (16%25). Reasons for this gap have included higher concentration in low-paying jobs, interrupted careers, different negotiation strategies of women versus men, variations in work experience and age, and discrimination, both direct and indirect.26

The story is not very much different in the Arab world, but the gap is significantly larger (see Table 2.2 for the 2015 data for all Arab countries). The data show that, compared to global indicators, the pay gap is staggering. The table shows the estimated gross national income per capita (for males and females) which is derived from the ratio of female to male wage.

Studies addressing pay gap in the region have uncovered some interesting trends including27:

  • 1. The gender pay gap in Arab countries is not only wide; closing the gap is not happening soon. According to the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, it will take 356 years to close the economic gender gap between men and women,28 and an important contributor to this imparity is the disparity in pay.
  • 2. Similar to many other regions ofthe world, women tend to be present in low-paying jobs. Nursing and primary school teaching (female- dominated jobs) are paid less than jobs in the medical and engineering field (male-dominated jobs). While females have made significant improvements in terms of accessing jobs in the medical field, their presence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is still limited.29 Restricted access to high paying jobs, either due to interrupted careers or due to glass-ceiling effects, leads—on average—to lower incomes for working females. Women’s integration into higher paying jobs has increased, yet men still dominate executive level positions, and are more likely to be present in corporate boards.
  • 3. Both males and females, particularly—though not exclusively—in non-oil-producing countries, express dissatisfaction with their salaries. This could be attributed to many reasons including deteriorating economic situations which often result in salaries below expecta- tions.30 The gender divide in pay satisfaction in the oil-producing countries seems to be secondary to the divide between expatriates and locals, as studies have shown significantly low pay satisfaction among expatriates compared to locals.31

Table 2.2 Estimated gross national income per capita

Estimated gross national income per capita (2015)

Female

Male

Female to male ratio

Country

Bahrain

25,717

44,303

58%

Djibouti

1981

4441

45%

Somalia

170

418

41%

Comoros

715

1945

37%

Oman

15,703

43,894

36%

United Arab Emirates

27,257

80,420

34%

Libya

7163

21,364

34%

Sudan

1902

5775

33%

Kuwait

35,164

107,991

33%

Qatar

50,324

159,897

31%

Egypt

4750

15,267

31%

Morocco

3388

11,091

31%

Mauritania

1608

5422

30%

Yemen

1045

3530

30%

Tunisia

4662

15,967

29%

Lebanon

5844

20,712

28%

Saudi Arabia

19,300

75,923

25%

Syrian Arab Republic

835

4007

21%

Palestine, State of

1766

8651

20%

Jordan

3203

16,694

19%

Iraq

3552

19,467

18%

Algeria

4022

22,926

18%

Regions

Arab States

5455

23,810

23%

East Asia and the Pacific

9569

14,582

66%

Europe and Central Asia

8453

17,547

48%

Latin America and the Caribbean

10,053

18,091

56%

South Asia

2278

9114

25%

Sub-Saharan Africa

2637

4165

63%

World

10,306

18,555

56%

Source: Human Development Report. (2016). United Nations Development Programme, New York, USA

  • 4. In some sectors, there is higher dissatisfaction in pay gaps compared to other sectors. For example, female nurses—more than female bank employees—perceive that their salaries do not match their efforts and backgrounds.32 This could be attributed to the possibility that some sectors are more agile in responding to the gender gap, and thus are more responsive in narrowing it. In the higher education field, senior professorial ranks have been dominated by males. As females are late entrants, it will take time before the situation is balanced. Since older males still populate such senior academic levels, they tend to be paid more. The cycle for promotion in other sectors, such as those in financial services and the accounting profession, is shorter and more controllable.
  • 5. There seems to be different pay expectations for male versus female employees. Women are still overwhelmingly expected to provide the secondary, not the primary, income to the family. Under such societal expectations, pay disparities are usually tolerated. This does not only pertain to employer expectations, but also extends to job seekers themselves. In Saudi Arabia, for example, when asked about their salary expectations, graduating male business students expected to make close to USD 35,000 compared to lower expectations by graduating female business students of about USD 27,000.33
  • 6. In some cases, there is no explanation for pay disparities other than direct or indirect discrimination. For example, it is widely acknowledged that women’s contributions and skills are valued less, and thus they are paid less. This is usually coupled with a context where women are not expected to negotiate their salaries, and if they do, they risk losing their jobs.34
  • 7. Some Arab countries are closing the gap very fast; in other countries the pace is very slow. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, the gap is narrowing,35 and some even claim that there is a reverse pay gap where women in the same position, function, and company earn 2% more than their male peers.36 In a study about women’s versus men’s compensation in the UAE, it was found that younger females (20-29 years) actually earned more than their male counterparts (107%). In the older age categories, they earned significantly less (81% for the 30-39 age category and 39% in the 40-49 age category37).
 
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