Around the world, new mothers struggle to balance the demands of their families and their careers. In the UAE, new mothers – both expatriates and Emirati women – have found that a scarcity of part-time jobs has forced them to choose between their careers and being at home with their young children.
This leads, in some cases, to the squandering of the careers of lots of highly educated and skilled women. As The National reported yesterday, if women participated in the workforce to the same extent as men in this region, it would boost productivity and drive 5 per cent annual average GDP growth, according to the World Bank’s estimates.
But this is not only an economic issue, or even a women’s rights issue, it is an important social issue.
Since women often have more responsibilities at home, they should have the right to more support in the workplace. Employers must recognise the value that both part-time workers and women specifically bring to the workplace and tailor their hiring policies accordingly.
Women deserve to have the opportunity to find a suitable job depending on their circumstances. Some would prefer a part-time job that would give them the time they need to spend with their young children. Some others need a full-time job but one that offers more flexibility and more efficient work hours. Some others would prefer to work from home or from outside traditional office spaces. Employers should do what they can to accommodate and address these requirements.
There is also a need to extend maternity leave for women, as we have argued before, to more than 45 days for private sector employees and more than 60 days for public sector employees, which are below international averages.
Taken together, these measures would make it easier for women to re-enter the workplace after having children. They would also boost the economy, because those who are already in the UAE can make a contribution to it.