Out-of-work mothers one of UAE’s biggest untapped resources, career consultants say

GDP could be 5 per cent higher if greater numbers of women were working, one expert says, as another suggests companies must get over their fear of part-time and home working.

ABU DHABI // Mothers looking for part-time employment are one of the UAE’s largest untapped resources, according to career consultants.

“With some of the lowest levels of female participation in the labour market, this region’s sclerotic labour laws and human resources policies are simply wasting the total productive capacity of our most educated yet latent talent – women,” said David Jones, founder and chief executive of The Talent Enterprise.

“With some of the lowest levels of statutory maternity leave and differences in benefits provision between men and women greater focus is required to urgently redress this balance.

“The World Bank indicates that if women participated in the formal workplace to the same extent as men in our region, annual average GDP could be almost 5 per cent higher – something everyone would benefit from.”

Zack Abdi, managing director of human resources consultancy Provectus Middle East, said employing women would lessen the need to bring in overseas workers.

“Why don’t you utilise the people you already have on the ground where you have the mothers who need part-time work? Why can we not maximise this underutilised workforce instead of bringing people in from oversees? We need to look at this.”

Hamza Zaouali, who runs nameyourcareer.com, a career coaching company that helps expatriates to find the work they desire, said many employers were hesitant about offering part-time work for fear it might open the "flexibility floodgates".

“Often, when someone goes for maternity leave, they do not keep them on a part-time basis because employers fear once they do it for one person then 10 or 15 might want to go part-time,” he said. “They have to start negotiating salaries and contracts again. There is much more headache in that in their eyes.”

Many part-time working mothers also want to work from home, whereas employers are often not comfortable if they do not see workers in the office, Mr Zaouali said. “This kills us – not just employers but the economy. There are definitely jobs that can and should only be done part-time, and employers do have needs.”

He pointed out employers could be very rigid.

“The idea of creating a position is not black or white. It is about, ‘do we have enough work to keep someone occupied for eight hours?’ Sometimes there is just enough work to do two or three hours a day, but the idea is just to give more work to the other people in the workplace.

“The mums feel frustrated. A lot of women – expatriates and Emirati women – don’t work because they struggle to find flexible work. They remain at home and that is hurting the economy because there are a lot of minds going to waste staying at home and that is not benefiting anyone.”