In a step forward for women's rights, the UAE Cabinet recently approved a bill that guarantees equal pay for men and women in the workforce.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai's ruler, made the announcement via a tweet which reads:
"With the strength and rule of the law, we do not want any exceptions in providing equal opportunities for both sexes," as translated by The National.
"Our Constitution ensures equal rights among the sexes and we seek to enforce and guarantee this right through the new law."
However, it is not yet clear when the bill would be presented to the country's advisory federal national council for final approval.
Gender equality in the UAE
In 2017, the UAE ranked 120 out of 144 countries in a report by The World Economic Forum highlighting gender gaps around the world.
The country ranked No.2 in the Middle East when it comes to "wage equality for similar work."
Many in the country hailed the move as a step forward, reminding the world of the UAE's commitment to women's rights.
"The UAE has always placed gender equality at the forefront of its national values and priorities," said Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, according to The National.
"The newly approved gender pay gap law highlights this commitment in the workplace, which will empower women to pursue equal opportunities and contribute to the UAE’s development," she added.
Some facts on female empowerment in the UAE
- Women hold 66 percent of government jobs in the UAE, 30 percent of which are senior decision-making positions.
- Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi was elected as the President of the Federal National Council in 2015, making her the first-ever woman to chair a parliamentary institution at the regional level.
- Illiteracy amongst Emirati women has dropped from 89.8 percent in 1970 to only 7.3 percent in 2017. The UAE ranks first in the region on literacy rate.
- 95 percent of UAE female high-school graduates pursue further education at tertiary-level, compared with 80 percent of men.
- The UAE has an official national strategy for empowerment of Emirati women and is chaired by Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak.
- Among the 40 ministers of the new government, nine are women, constituting almost 23 percent of the total ministers.
- The participation of women in the UAE Cabinet is amongst the highest in the world, reflecting the strong position reached by Emirati women.
- There are more than 20,000 female entrepreneurs in the UAE, meaning women make up at least 10 percent of all Emirati entrepreneurs. That’s a 58 percent growth since 2012.
- In 2016, the UAE inaugurated a new UN Women Liaison Office to help strengthen UN Women’s partnership with the GCC countries and accelerate efforts for gender equality.
- In 2012, the UAE passed a new law calling for mandatory female representation on all boards of government corporations and bodies. It was the first country in the Arab world to implement such a progressive law.
- The UAE has signed plenty of legislations that aim to support equal rights of women. This includes the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Hours of Work Convention, and the Equal Remuneration Convention.
- By law, the UAE protects women's social and financial welfare. Married women are entitled to have marriage dowry and regular maintenance expenses paid by their husband. Expenses include living, food, medical, and household costs.
- The UAE has opened the region's first military college for women called "Khawla bint Al Azwar Military School."