Differences In Wages For Men And Women In The Middle East Research Paper

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Women, Middle East, Workplace, Gender, Men, Gap, Wage, Economics

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/02/14

How Does Oil lead to Wage Differences for Men and Women

in Oil Producing Countries in Middle East


The International Labor Organization reported a case of one school teacher in Jordan who was fired after asking for a wage increase. The case of wage inequality among men and women in the Middles East has caused an alarm among civic organizations. According to research women from Middle Eastern countries have made a minimal advancement in terms of gender equality. While there are scholars who asserted that the lagging behind by the majority of women in the region is attributed to their cultural and religious belief, still some researchers put the blame on oil production being the main reason for slow progression of gender equality. This is because the oil production industry calls for a minimal requirement for the women labour force leading to the reduction of their participation in the economic and political aspect in their country.

Statistics on Wage Gap between Men and Women in the Middle East

In the Middle East, getting an increased participation of women in the workforce has been a challenge as the percentage of women who are unemployed are generally twice higher than that of men. More so, women who are employed are faced with unfairness especially in terms of pay rates. In Jordan, for instance, despite the women having benefitted from the government’s investment policy on human resources, majority of them are still at the disadvantage in terms of economic pay. Jordanian women who are employed in the private sector are reportedly paid about 41% lesser than men. The same report revealed a 28% disparity of wage in an unfavourable direction to the women in the public sector (Arnold, 2013).
It was not a surprise to observe the same pattern in the United Arab Emirates. According to the Institute of Social and Economic Research, the median salary among female workers is only around AED 24,000 annual salary compared to that of the men of the same qualifications at AED 42,000 annually (Tong, 2010). In another study, female managers in the United Arab Emirates received a pay of Dh 8,000 lesser than the opposite sex in the same capacity and qualification.
In the past several decades, women in Kuwait were given the right to higher education and freedom to exercise their economic and cultural rights, a far cry from the treatment accorded to their counterparts in other countries in the region. However, despite the important developments on women’s rights, Kuwaiti women still face disadvantages owing to gender differences. For example from a survey taken recently, Kuwaiti women received an amount of 24,531 Kuwaiti Dinar annually, compared to men at 40,000 Kuwaiti Dinar (Gender).
In terms of career orientation, Saudi women are said to be more ambitious and goal oriented than men, despite these, the wage difference between the genders have yet to close. The pattern observed in Saudi Arabia is that graduated women on the average are receiving 20% lesser pay than men (Arnold, 2013). Most of the full-time and salaried women in the country earn around SR5,000- SR9,000 which is twenty per cent lower than men’s wages (Aziz). One Saudi Engineer requested for her company for a raise but was denied due to what she perceived as “weak official reason” (Aziz). Consequently in Iran, women in the working sector were reported to have earned on the average of $3,912 also an amount which is 20% lower than the pay received by men at $18,834 (Gender, 2012). The negative gender wage gap in the Middle East speaks of the wage gap in Iraq which is also at over 20% lower than that of the males (Arnold, 2013)
Bahrain, however, showed a positive 40% pay gap, that is women who are employed receive a much higher pay than the males. This is however associated to the fact that women in Bahrain have a very low participation in terms of economic employment (Income, 2008). The same pattern is also observed in Tunisa, where a great number of the women are unemployed. The unemployment of women is attributed to the perceived positive gender wage gap which is projected to be at 15% more than the wages of men, according to the adjusted gender wage gap in 2001 (Ekman, 2009). In this research, the women if paid in accordance with their qualifications, education and experience tend to be paid more than men, hence, the limited opportunity given to them in the workforce. Women who were employed are limited to 24.5% in the government, 20.6% in medicine and 34.5% in teaching. The women in Tunisa are most welcome in the informal sector where lesser education and experience is required and with a lower wage (Ekman, 2009).

Effect of Women Participation in the Labour Force

The participation of women in the labor force influences gender relationships especially when women work in jobs that required interaction with their co-employees. The freedom of interaction leads to the sharing of information and enhances the creation of collective action for better results. A research conducted on young women revealed that they gained more self-confidence as they are exposed to factory work and to other people; many of them became member of social groups and were consequently informed about their health and contraception. (Ross, 2008). In addition to the advantage of being a member of sphere outside of the home, the women were also given the chance to have a stronger influence in the family. Their exposure to other beliefs and having and independent income can largely help the woman develop a more egalitarian way of conviction when it comes to her participation in the family affairs (Ross, 2008).

How can Women have a Better Access to Labour force

Despite the increase program of several international organizations such as the International Labour Organizations that cater to the needs of the disadvantaged women in the Middle East, the prevalence of inequality is far from over in this particular region. There is a great improvement of education among women in the Middle East; however, even this is not enough to cause a dramatic development on wage gap issues and other opportunities. Gender inequality has not yet been eliminated or reduced to a minimal level hence the need for these women group and their government to work for a more equal treatment between men and women.
While in theory, women can have a better access to labour by persuading their government to hear and provide for their plight, still this is better said than done. The challenged faced by many labour and women organizations today is where to start. Governments and societies who do not want their women’s participation in the labour market are also the governments who often refuse to hear and act on behalf of their women. How can women enter the labor force when the society and the circumstances that they in prohibits them to do so? One can provide as many answers and theories, but the only means by which wage equality can be achieved is the realization of the whole society of the importance of women’s involvement not only in the labour force, but also in politics, the government and other social issues.


There is a prevalence of labour inequality in the Middle East and other oil rich countries, not only on the creation of equal opportunity for both genders, but also in terms of the difference in wages. The Middle East countries tend to allow lesser working opportunities for their women due to the ability of the men and their state to provide for the economic needs of the family. The gender gap difference is often in favour to that of the men, but it was different in Bahrain and Tunisa where the gender wage gap is positively directed to women. However, this is not at all a positive indicator, as the higher wages for women prohibits their employment in the formal sector. Hence, gender inequality is still prevalent despite the gender gap being higher in women.
While many scholars claimed that the Islamic belief and culture resulted to this social phenomenon, there are some scholars who suggested that it was the tremendous increase in oil production that caused this type of inequality in oil rich countries. It was observed that countries who allowed majority of their women to be involved in the labour force showed an increase in the literacy among their women. They were able to gain confidence in the process, and as a result were able to participate and influence the political aspect of their society.


Arnold, T. 2013. Gender Pay Gap in the Middle East Between 20-40%. The national Business. Retrieved from www.thenational.ae
Aziz, A. Women Employees Suffer in Prevailing Gender Pay Gap. Retrieved from www.arabnews.com
Ekman, D. Determinatns of Economic Growth in Tunisa and the Role of Women. Retrieved from www.gnderclearinghouse.org
Gender Gap Index. Iran. Retrieved from www3.weforum.org
Gender Gap Index. Kuwait. Retrieved from www3.weforum.org
Income Data Services. Gender Pay Gap Report for the International Trade Union confederation. Retrieved from www.wall-street.ro
Mammen, K., Paxson, C., 2000. Women’s Work and Economic Development. Journal of Economic Perspectives. Vol. 4. No. 4
Michael, R. 1985. Consequence of the Rise in Female Labor Force Participation Rates: Questions and Probes. Journal of Labor Economics. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable235000
Ross, M., 2008. Oil, Islam, and Women. American Political Science Review. Vol. 102, No. 1
Tong, Q. Wages Structure in the United Arab Emirates. Institute of Social and Economic Research. Retrieved from www.iser.ae

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