WEF praises slow but sure progress in closing Saudi ‘gender gap’

Saudi women work inside the all-female call center in Riyadh. (File photo)
Updated 11 November 2017
0

WEF praises slow but sure progress in closing Saudi ‘gender gap’

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is making slow but steady progress toward closing the “gender gap” between men and women in employment, education and health, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The WEF expects the recent decision to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia to hasten their participation in society. But women remain well behind global norms in political participation.
Although Saudi Arabia still ranks toward the bottom on the WEF global index of progress toward closing the gender gap in public and social life, it has improved three places over last year to rank 138th globally, and is among the biggest improvers in the years since the report first appeared, according to Saadia Zahidi, the WEF’s head of gender and education.
“Saudi Arabia has actually made the most progress in terms of female economic participation since the report began in 2006. Admittedly it came from a low base, but proportionately it has been significant,” she told Arab News.
“We will only see the effect of the decision to allow women to drive next year, but you can expect that to be positive,” she added.
Another WEF source said: “This report shows how Saudi Arabia is slowly but surely paving the way for a stronger society where women are given the opportunity to live their full potential. Also, keeping in mind all the reforms happening at the moment, next year’s report results seem to be even more promising.”
But it has not been a good year for women elsewhere in the world. For the first time since the WEF report was launched in 2006, the “gender gap” — a measure of progress toward gender equity according to economic, educational, health and political criteria — has widened compared to last year.
Calling it “a bad year in a good decade,” the WEF said that gender equality had decreased in the workplace and politics, especially in some countries with big populations like China and India, which affected the weighted totals.
Among the G-20 countries, France is ranked highest on gender parity at 11th place in the global ranking, followed by Germany (12), the UK (15), Canada (16), South Africa (19) and Argentina (34). The US drops four places to 49, while at the lower end of the group, no fewer than six countries rank at or above 100. These are China (100), India (108), Japan (114), the Republic of Korea (118), Turkey (131) and Saudi Arabia (138).
Overall, 68 percent of the global gender gap has been closed — down slightly from the previous two years — and it will still take 100 years to fully close that gap worldwide, the WEF said.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), at the current rate of progress, it will take 157 years to close the gap.
The country closest to fully bridging the gender gap is Iceland, followed by Norway and Finland. Rwanda, with a high number of female politicians, is in fourth place.
Among Arab countries, Tunisia is the highest ranked at 117, followed by the UAE at 120 and Bahrain at 126. “However out of the 17 countries covered by the index in the MENA region this year, 11 countries have improved their overall score compared to last year. The UAE is now very close to closing its gender gap in educational attainment,” the WEF said.
Zahidi said that the lifting of the driving ban in Saudi Arabia was an important factor toward greater female empowerment, but that other measures — like improved, safe public transport and remote digital working — would be needed to help lower-paid women.
She added that the history of Islam had many examples of powerful women who played a full part in business and society.


DiplomaticQuarter: Friendship to the fore as Koreans celebrate National Foundation Day

The event marks the legendary formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon in 2333 B.C. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 10 min 8 sec ago
0

DiplomaticQuarter: Friendship to the fore as Koreans celebrate National Foundation Day

  • The event, on Oct. 15 in the Park Hyatt Lazard’s ballroom, marks the legendary formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon in 2333 B.C

RIYADH: Consul General of the Republic of Korea in Jeddah Lee Sang-kyoun stressed the importance of the relationship between South Korea and Saudi Arabia as he welcomed guests to a special celebration of Korea’s 4,351st National Foundation Day.

The event, on Oct. 15 in the Park Hyatt Lazard’s ballroom, marks the legendary formation of the first Korean state of Gojoseon in 2333 B.C.

The diplomat and his family warmly welcomed the guests, including Ambassador Jamal Balkhayour, the director general of the Makkah region branch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as they arrived at the venue, which was lavishly decorated with flowers and the Korean flag. 

In his opening speech, Lee said: “Korea and Saudi Arabia have shared strong companionship as ‘Rafiq,’ (friends) since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1962.” 

He also emphasized the common values shared by the two countries, and their indispensable partnership and cooperation in a number of sectors, beginning with construction and energy in the early 1970s and developing through the years to now include the likes of renewable and nuclear energy, culture and more.

“Notably, the two countries launched a ministerial-level committee, Saudi-Korea Vision 2030, to bolster bilateral cooperation, focusing on supporting business ventures between the two countries,” Lee added.

He said he hopes to see an expansion of cultural and artistic ties between the nations, while also strengthening “person-to-person” contact between young people and future generations.

“Such cultural and human exchange will be a meaningful step toward fostering the values shared by the two countries — working in collaboration for future success and common goals,” he said.

The consul general explained that strengthening such human bonds will encourage an understanding between people of a kind that can only happen through art, history, academia and scientific exchange, which is why the consulate is establishing a cultural center as a “signature window for cultural exchange.” 

The consulate will also set up a foundation for students to “foster the common grounds in their interests and hopes” through an exchange program for Korean and Saudi youths.

Lee added that 2018 has been an important year for South Korea, with the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in PyeongChang, the Inter-Korean Summit, and the Singapore Summit between North Korea and the US.

As the celebration continued, Korean residents were brimming with pride and excitement as they celebrated their National Foundation Day in the Kingdom, while meeting and mingling with friends from Saudi Arabia and other nations.