Emirati women are in leading positions in several sectors. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has made huge progress in closing the pay gap between men and women over the last three years. The country was ranked 18th globally and first regionally in the Gender Inequality Index (GII) of the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2020.

On Saturday, the UAE will join countries worldwide in celebrating International Equal Pay Day (September 18). The initiative was launched by the UN as an annual occasion to intensify efforts to empower women and girls and remove all obstacles in achieving equality between them and men in the labour market.

Legislative reforms

According to the World Bank’s 2021 ‘Women, Business and the Law (WBL) report, the UAE has topped the MENA region rankings due to several legislative reforms related to women’s economic participation enacted over the last three years. The annual report comprises eight indicators structured around women’s interactions with the law as they begin, progress through, and end their careers. The indicators are: Mobility, Workplace, Pay, Marriage, Parenthood, Entrepreneurship, Assets, and Pension.

Huge gains

This year, the UAE achieved 82.5 points out of 100, compared to 56 scored in the report’s 2020 edition and 29 points in the 2019 edition. The UAE also achieved a perfect score (100 points) in five indicators in the latest report: Movement, Workplace, Wages, Entrepreneurship, and Pension.

The UAE was ranked first across the Arab world in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report for 2021. The UAE also ranked first globally in four of the report’s indicators: women in parliament, gender ratio at birth, literacy rate, and enrolment in primary education.

What the law says

The UAE Labour Law states: “Female employees shall receive wages equal to that of males if they perform the same work or another of equal value.” The Decree of Federal Law No. 6 for 2020, stipulating equal wages for women and men in the private sector, came into force in September 2020.

The UAE Labour Law provides for the abolition of all restrictions imposed on women working at night and working in complex jobs such as mining, construction, manufacturing, energy, agriculture and transportation, to give women the right to work in these industries. The law does not allow the employer to terminate a woman’s services or warn her because of her pregnancy.

The law prohibits discrimination between employees regarding access to jobs and promotion and gender discrimination in jobs with the same job functions.

Emirati women in the lead

Emirati women have also maintained a remarkable presence in various business sectors. For example, they make up 64 per cent of workers in the education sector, the same percentage of the total doctors, nurses and technicians in the health sector, and 31 per cent of the total workers in the finance, banking and insurance activities.

Meanwhile, the number of licenced companies in the UAE owned by women is 80,025, while women constitute 21.5 per cent of management positions and 32.5 per cent of workers in specialised professions.