By Daniel Hunter
Governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) should create urgently needed jobs for the 2.5 million people entering the labour market each year and improve their policies to encourage women’s entrepreneurship in order to reduce structural unemployment, says a new OECD report.
Women in Business: Policies to Support Women’s Entrepreneurship Development in the MENA Region notes that while MENA governments have made progress over the past decade in closing the gender gap in education, more needs to be done to tackle gender inequality in business. Today, only 27% of women in the region join the labour force, compared to 51% in other low, middle and high-income economies, and only 11% are self-employed, against 22% of men.
“While MENA governments have made significant progress in addressing gender inequality in education, more needs to be done to unleash the full potential of women in the economy. Empowering women to contribute as employees and entrepreneurs in particular represents a major opportunity to boost competitiveness, growth and job creation in the region. This will require concerted policy action which the OECD stands ready to support” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.
While general reforms to improve the business climate will benefit all entrepreneurs, unleashing the potential of women entrepreneurs will also require concerted actions by governments, the businesswomen’s community and private sector actors to:
- Improve policy design and implementation: ensure that existing policies are sufficiently resourced, better co-ordinate women’s entrepreneurship policies across ministries, and give businesswomen’s associations a stronger voice in public-private dialogue;
- Ease access to finance: improve financing for growth-oriented businesses that have moved beyond the micro-finance threshold, and enhance entrepreneurs’ financial literacy;
- Increase access to information and business support services: tailor development services to women’s needs, in parallel to existing mainstream initiatives to avoid "side streaming" the businesswomen's community;
- Close the data gap: collect and disseminate gender-disaggregated enterprise data to ensure that policy design and implementation effectively empower women entrepreneurs.
The report’s recommendations are based on a first-ever comparative assessment of policies, programmes and institutions supporting women’s entrepreneurship across 18 MENA economies. It was led by 13 national task forces of the OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum (WBF), a network created in 2007 to implement the Ministerial Declaration on Fostering Women’s Entrepreneurship in the MENA Region.
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