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UAE’s wage gender parity law fails to tackle nationality-based wage disparity

Kudos to the UAE as it finally provided the legal framework to address wage disparity between men and women.

Long-term overdue, and despite being a global phenomenon, the law puts to rest any arguments against giving women equal pay as men.

The Korn Ferry Hay Group said in a recent report that around the world men, as a demographic group, are paid an average of 20% more than women.

“Our global research confirms this gap but also shows that when compared “like for like”, the gender pay gap reduces to 1.6%,” said the research group.

A bit surprising but the current law is clear.

What’s not clear is why nationality wage disparity was not addressed.

Read: 10 first Arab women breaking the glass ceiling in male dominated field

Law of equals

The UAE Cabinet has approved the issuance of the Law on Equal Wages and Salaries for Men and Women to ensure that women have equal opportunities as partners in the UAE’s development and to further empower women to lead future national strategies and ambitious projects, according to UAE news agency WAM.

It said that in 2015, the UAE Council for Gender Balance was established, and ever since the UAE had continued to pioneer involving women in the development process up to the issuance of the new Law.

A 2017 ranking by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows the region lagging others on gender equality, with the UAE ranking 120 on a list of 144 countries.

Bloomberg quoted UAE Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tweeting: “We don’t want any exceptions to equal opportunities between the sexes.”

“(Sheikh Mohammed) didn’t say when the bill would be presented to the country’s advisory federal national council for final approval,” said Bloomberg.

The UAE has been working to close the gender gap by appointing women to its cabinet, federal national council and other state entities and several banks in the Gulf have appointed women to lead them in recent years, according to Bloomberg.

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Women in high places, a UAE public site, said that following the 2015 elections of the Federal National Council (FNC), 20 new members were appointed out of which 8 were women.

That year, the FNC got its first woman speaker in Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi, a first for a woman to hold this position not only in the UAE but also in the GCC.

“The current UAE Cabinet comprises 29 ministers of which 8 are women,” says

Read: Arab Women Forum promotes having an entrepreneurial ‘streak’ among women

Eager to reach the top

Women graduating from university in the UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2020 could be the first generation to close the gender pay gap in their lifetimes, according to new research from Accenture.

The report said that, within decades, the pay gap could close if women take advantage of three career equalizers and if business, government, and academia provide critical support.

A 2017 research by Accenture said that globally, a woman earns an average $100 for every $140 a man earns.

The research showed UAE women show greater interest than men in aspiring to senior leadership positions (67% vs 62%).

Today more than 70% of Emiratis in federal higher education institutions are women.

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Wages differ according to nationalities
There are gaps in salaries at the nationalities level in the UAE.

2016-2017 saw the gap between the salaries paid to UAE Nationals versus expatriates grow, with UAE Nationals being paid 40% to 60% higher on guaranteed cash, according to People First, an HR consultancy.

At lower level roles the difference was around AED 2,500 ($680) per month, however at higher level management roles this gap was as big as AED 10,000 ($2725) per month, it said.

According to Emirates Women online, a 2016 survey which looked into the salaries of senior management roles provided a breakdown of the differences in wage according to nationalities.

“For example, an Asian executive Personal Assistant PA will receive an average monthly salary of AED13,784, while an Arab executive PA will be paid AED20,410 and a Western PA can pull in AED 20,741,” Emirates Women said.

According to the 2016 Salary Survey, 28.9% of Westerners were getting paid more than people of Asian descent, “a substantial difference for people that supposedly have the same experience.”

Westerners’ salaries were only 4.67% higher than employees of Middle Eastern origins.