MEC Women's Rights Research Seminar: Qatari Women and the Labour Market - Towards an Empowering Alternative

Conveners: St Antony's College Middle East Centre

Speaker: Dr. Mawahib Abubakr (Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics)

Chair: Dr Nazila Ghanea (Department for Continuing Education University of Oxford)

This paper provides analysis of the feminization of labour and elucidates the contradictory factors affect women’s contribution to the labour market with special reference to Qatari women. The labour market in Qatar reflects not only the economic growth, immigration, education levels and state policies but also, gender disparity. The results of the Labour Force Sample Survey for Q2,2016 conducted by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, indicate that the economic participation rate of Qataris reached 52.3% of the total Qatari population aged 15 years and above, with 68.4% for Qatari males and 36.8 % for Qatari females of the total Qatari labour force. Despite the formal recognition of women’s rights and the benefits, women’s inequality is labour market is still prevalent. Most Qatari female workers works in the field of education and in governmental offices. This is mainly attributed to the conservative work environment in such places that respect the culture of segregation of Qatari society. The Qatari Muslim society is highly patriarchal like other societies in the Arab and Muslim world. Men enjoy a dominant position in social life and have controlled both processes of accessibility of resources and political decision making. As per the report of the planning council 2005; Qatari women are better educated than Qatari men however, the number of Qatari males outnumbered the number of Qatari women in the labour force. This paper examines how the social construction of gender relations have impacted the women’s participation in the labour market. Indeed, the rights to education, work and political participation have allowed women to instil considerable change in the gender relations however, women are “caught” between becoming “modern” and maintaining their traditional values and culture as prescribed by their society. I argue that the question is not only to find a place for women in the labour market but how this male dominated, and gender insensitive market can be modified and adapted to allow women to comfortably join. What is important is to go beyond descriptive analysis and numbers to investigate the impacts of the tension between traditions and modernity on women and how these women aspire for an alternative empowering space in the labour market.