Gender and employment in Yemen [Archives:2005/824/Business & Economy]

March 14 2005

By ILO, MoSAL, and the Directorate General for Working Women- Yemen
Yemen is the only IDA-eligible country in the Arab region covered by ILO regional office for Arab States. With a GNI per capita of 490$ in 2002, Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world where 42% of al Yemeni households live below the poverty line and 25% of the labor force is unemployed or underemployed.

The population growth rate in Yemen is 3.5% per year, which is among the highest in the world. With an average total fertility rate of 6.5 children the care burden on Yemeni women limits their mobility and time availability to pursue education or acquire skills that will enable them to earn an income. The labor force participation rate of Yemeni women was 21.8% according to Labor Force Survey, with 62% working in agriculture as unpaid family workers in the rural areas. Paid job opportunities in the non-agricultural sector (13.8% of all employed women) and self-employed (23.9% of all employed women) are limited. Only 1.8% of all employed women are in the public sector.

In addition to the care pressures, there are cultural constraints on women's mobility and restrictions on their work in close proximity to men who are not members of their families. These restrictions result in limiting access and opportunities for appropriate training to employment opportunities.

However, it is important to note that such contestants are not absolutes, and they change across time and between different communities and settings. There are, for instances, changing attitudes with respect to girl's education that can help increase their potentials for employment ability. With supportive institutional and policy environment, and appropriate programs in place, these positive trends can be escalated.

Institutional Context:

Women's status in Yemen has improved over the past decade with increased government attention to arrange of issues from legal rights to employment. A number of laws have been amended to reflect more gender equitable provisions. For instance, the labor legislation of Yemen now takes workingwomen into account by recognizing that work is a right of all citizens. Article 5 of the Labor Code emphasizes the principle of equality between women and men with respect to working conditions, rights and duties and labor relations without discrimination. This article also prescribes equality between the sexes in matters of employment, promotion; pat training, qualifications and socials security.

The national women's employment Strategy is a 10 years (2001-2011) initiatives, which was approved y Cabinet Decree No. (49). It builds on demographic and economic indicators related to women's employment and highlights for better utilization, current national legislation and international conventions that the Yemeni governments have signed. The initiative reviews the existing efforts around gender and employment issues in the country, identifying four strategic objectives for activities (employment opportunities, employment ability, terms and conditions of work and perceptions and attitudes around women's work).

The establishment of the Directorate General fir Working Women (DGWW) in the Ministry of Labor in 1998 marked an important turning point for gender and employment in Yemen. The Body's mandate is to work towards enhancing gender equality, preventing discrimination in the world of work and improving women's employment ability through appropriate policies, legislations and interventions.

The DGWW remains a part of the present Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MoSAL). ILO regional Office in the Arab States has an ongoing project with DGWW and MoSAL on gender and employment in Yemen.

Strengthening the Women's Machinery for the Advancement of Women's Work Project

He project titled “Strengthening the Women's Machinery for the Advancement of Women's Work in Yemen” was launched in June 2004. The project has four main goals:

– Institutional capacity of DGWW for advancing women's work

– Coordination of the implementation of the National Women's Employment Strategy

– Becoming a clearing house for sharing knowledge and information on working women's issues in Yemen

– Advocacy platform for workers issues in general and women's workers in particular

An additional program supporting the project is a Gender Mainstreaming in Social Dialogue Institutions Program. This program consists of the following main activities:

Currently, there are two ongoing studies, one on women members of Chamber of Commerce and industry an the other on women members of the General Federation of Worker's Trade Unions, which will provide an assessment of the needs of women members of these organizations and provide recommendations for policy and action. The findings from the studies will be used towards designing training and awareness raising activities.

Technical assistance will be provided towards the development and implementation of strategy and action plans promoting gender equality in workers and employers originations. Training activities will provide women members of workers' and employers' association with leadership, conflict resolution and negotiation skills towards their increased participation as decision makers. The project will strengthen the capacities and responsibilities of Women's committees among women's organizations, whole it will help employers associations set up gender focal points and women's committees with in their structures.

Further in the project, the focus will be on strengthening the roles of the social partners in integrating gender issues on selected issues in the social dialogue process. Possible issues of focus include working women's rights, informal emolument and women's entrepreneurs. The ILO's Internat6ional Training Center in Turin will also be contributing to the capacity building activities of the projects,

A range of strategies is being utilized toward achieving these goals including research, training, advocacy and awareness raising and communication and dissemination.

While ILO executes the project, its secretariat is based in DGWW in MoSAL. It works in close consultation with tri-partite steering Committee and related social partners, This project also liaise and collaborates closely with other ILO projects and donor initiatives in Yemen including the MDG/PRSP framework towards better integration of gender concerns into poverty, employment and overall economic development efforts. The ILO Chief Technical Advisor on gender and employment in Yemen, based in the DGWW offices of MoSAL in Sana'a, provides oversight for both project and the additional program.