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Johanne Eva Desvages
Friday 4 October 2019 Last update on Friday, October 4, 2019 At 1:23 PM

Countries in the South Mediterranean and in the MENA region in general persistently register lower female participation in the labour force and a high gender gap. In a recent policy brief of the FEMISE MED Brief series, two FEMISE researchers suggest further policies to strengthen the current quest for empowering women and to reduce inequality in the Mediterranean countries, most specifically in Egypt.


Even though several studies have shown that women participation in the economy contributes to economic development, in the Mediterranean countries, the access of women to employment remains significantly limited.

In their analysis, Doaa Salma and Dr Mohga Bassim mentioned that, in Egypt, « the female labour force participation is very low, at about 25% in the country, female rates of unemployment are twice as high as those for males.. Access of females to employment remains significantly limited : the occupational structure of employment remains generally gendered; and female earnings remain significantly inferior to those of males ».

Working with micro-data, the FEMISE analysis adds a series of ‘non-marketable’ characteristics that can explain some degree of discrimination in the labour market. The authors mention how some progress has been made by governments to reduce the gender gap in the region. However, to better illustrate the importance of this issue, they stress thatif the current rates were to be maintained, the gender gap would close in about 150 years. An accelerated pace of reforms is thus needed.

In order to strengthen the current quest for empowering women and to reduce inequality, the two researchers advise to adopt several policies., among which :

  • Establish a Ministry for Women’s Affairs


The recommended Ministry for WoFEMISE MED BRIEF men’s Affair could be mandated to create short and long-term vision and strategies to change the current culture. Also it could change legislations and services to promote gender-related issues. This Ministry could work closely in collaboration with other Ministries and improve the general understanding that there is no difference between both genders. 

  • Establish a Women’s Federation 


The federation should be setting a flexible membership condition to include women participating in all sectors in the economy and others, including women from different social classes, working and non-working.  

It would be a source for women to share different life experiences and create a network with civil societies. In addition, it would be responsible for covering political, legal, social and economic aspects. Furthermore, it could provide policymakers with suggestions regarding solving women’s problems in different aspects.

  • Stimulate investments in women-owned businesses 


It could lead to a better female participation in the economy. Women have been participating in all economic sectors for decades, from farming to manufacturing and medicine, engineering, banking and research. The Services Sector appears to be the growing sector with opportunities for future expansions. 


  • Enforcement of laws for women Protection


Several laws were enacted since 1962 to protect women at home and work and remove inequality between women and men. Government and public sector not violate the rights of working women; however; this is not always reflected in private sector employment. Law enforcement needs a cultural change as well as continuous monitoring and strengthening the government offices enforcing the law.

  • Enact a “Preferential Treatment” Policy for Women-Owned business


Preferential treatment policies towards women-owned business and women employment similar to the policies adopted in the USA to increase the participation of women in the economy (Bassim, 2010). These supportive policies that increase the participation of women in the economy, have been applied with success, and have led to a growth of women-owned businesses at a faster rate in the USA.

  •  A “Gender Support Fund” for  women suffering from poverty


The government has to ensure that it is representing the needs of women suffering from poverty, and should introduce a “Gender Support Fund”. This fund, which should be part of the government’s budget, could be used to support women particularly those supporting families.

Written in collaboration with Femise. 

The FEMISE MedBrief is available for download here 

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