Improving working conditions for women in the MENA region

Project description

Title: Promoting Employment of Young Women through Applied Gender Diversity Management in Companies in the MENA Region
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Global, inter alia: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia
Overall term: 2015 to 2020

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Context

The project is part of the special initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to promote stability and development in the Middle East and North Africa. Through the projects implemented in this context, BMZ is helping to create economic and social prospects for people in the region. More than 70 additional development projects are being implemented in the period between 2014 and 2022 as part of the initiative. The focus is on empowering young people, promoting employment, supporting economic stability, fostering democracy and stabilising neighbouring countries in crisis situations.

The labour market participation rate of women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) is the lowest in the world: only one fifth of the workforce is female. Unemployment among young female university graduates is around 60 per cent in Egypt, 40 per cent in Jordan and roughly 33 per cent in Morocco. Although women without higher education qualifications are more likely to be employed, their jobs are usually underpaid and lack social protection. Traditional views of gender roles hinder the achievement of gender equality in the labour market across all social strata.

In the private sector, women are less likely to be hired despite having relevant qualifications. Employers are wary of frequent absences from work and early resignations due to family obligations. At the same time, many firms have difficulty filling vacant positions. Little use is being made of the potential that female workers offer the private sector.

Objective

The project has improved employment opportunities for women in companies in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

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Approach

Gender Diversity Management (GDM): a human resource policy which promotes the economic integration and retention of women within the professional sphere. Companies have established that the professional management of Gender Diversity should be seen more on a business level. Greater integration of women and gender equality within the workforce leads to the increased competitiveness of companies.

Examples of this include the introduction of flexible working hours, the use of women’s quota within recruitment processes, the development of career paths and the consistent implementation of gender policies at the management level. A socially responsible and family-friendly working environment enables broader staff selection, reduces absences and staff rotation, and ultimately leads to improved overall business performance. The active labour market participation of women has an immediate impact on economic growth.

Under the EconoWin ‘label’, the project supports pioneer firms in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia in introducing various GDM projects aimed at promoting employment for women, improving staff retention and career development opportunities. Regional knowledge sharing brings together all project partners and creates a strong lobby for the economic integration of women.

A highlight of the project is its global knowledge sharing platform, known as the Gender Diversity Circulator. This platform enables direct exchange between enterprises from the MENA region and companies from Germany and throughout Europe, including Commerzbank, thyssenkrupp and Ahold Delhaize. In this context and in cooperation with GIZ, Germany’s Commerzbank convened the first global GDM conference in Berlin in 2017, which was attended by 100 managers from 60 companies and more than 10 international organisations.

The project works closely with business associations. ‘When women work, economies win’ ‒ is the slogan that has helped transform the partner business associations in the four countries into driving forces that share the same vision of economic integration for women. Going forward, these associations will support their member firms in integrating GDM into their business practices.

Results

Since January 2015, more than 100 companies have participated in GDM events run by partner associations. 30 firms have signed cooperation agreements with GIZ and are implementing GDM projects. For example, working conditions are being made more family friendly in the telecommunication and IT sector at Vodafone Egypt, Umniah in Jordan and Vermeg in Tunisia. In the banking sector, both Amen Bank in Tunisia and BMCI in Morocco are introducing women-friendly recruitment processes and career development programmes. More than 14,000 employees (including 5,000 women) have already benefited from GDM projects in the four countries. Through training courses, 150 human resources managers from more than 40 firms now have the skills they need to initiate GDM in their businesses.