UAE employers are urged to rethink their reluctance to hire women who are well-educated and have work experience and children to look after. Mothers tell of their struggles in finding positions that offer child-friendly hours, day-care, or allow parents to work from home.
ABU DHABI // Mothers have spoken about their struggles to find a part-time job or one with flexible hours when they want to return to work after having a child.
Many found employers to be too rigid when it came to offering accommodating hours or working from home, while the part-time jobs that are available were too few or poorly paid.
Nour Ahmad, who has a master’s degree in business administration, worked at a company in Dubai until she gave birth.
She decided to quit her job because the legal maternity leave period of 45 days was too short for her to bond with her baby, and the working hours were too long.
“I stayed with my daughter for three years, and now I have been looking for a job for a year and a half,” said Ms Ahmad.
“I have never found a good part-time job that can cover my basic monthly expenses. The three-year gap has made it impossible for me to be hired again.”
Ms Ahmad, who has stopped looking for a job, said it was disappointing that she could not find part-time work despite her work experience and education.
Likewise, Nida, a housewife with a two-year-old child, has been struggling to find a job that offers a good work-life balance. “Coming from Canada, part-time work is a concept that’s a win-win for employees and employers,” she said.
“Employees work according to their availability and, as such, employers don’t have to extend full benefits to part-timers. Here, I see many posts on Facebook groups where stay-at-home mums are desperate to work but to no avail.”
Kinza Sajjad Naqvi left her job as a financial analyst after her daughter’s birth. She, too, spent many hours searching for suitable employment when she was ready to return to work.
“During my third trimester, I was desperately looking up companies that encourage working from home, part-time work, flexible working hours or ones that provide day-care facilities on-site,” she said. “But I was disappointed because nothing was available.”
Emma, a British expatriate in Abu Dhabi, said she felt mothers were being excluded from the workforce because of the lack of part-time jobs and flexibility among employers.
“There are thousands of mums in the UAE just like me,” she said. “Highly qualified to postgraduate level, motivated, smart women who were valued in their home countries for the skills they brought to the workplace are effectively barred from working here because of long hours and lack of short-term childcare options, especially for older children.”
Two years ago, Emma was teaching and training healthcare professionals at a British university, as well as working in a hospital.
“I did go for one interview here [in the UAE] at a rehabilitation hospital, but they wanted me to work from 8am to 6pm, six days a week,” she said.
For employers, part-time work was not a consideration, she said.
“Many women I know here, unable to find jobs compatible with family life, are choosing to take online study courses with the intent of using these new skills when they return to their home countries,” Emma said.
“But wouldn’t it be better if they were welcomed into the workplace instead? Surely it’s better for the long-term productivity of a nation to harness all the talent sitting unused on its doorstep rather than continually recruiting from overseas?”