Women Wanted: Attracting Women to Technical Fields in Qatar


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Over the past several decades Qatar has dramatically reformed its education and training system to align it with macroeconomic policies aimed at advancing towards a knowledge-based economy. However, technical vocational education and training (TVET) has not been a significant focus of educational reform. Though the need for a technically trained labor force was recognized by policy makers in Qatar as early as the 1940s when Qatar began exporting oil, dedicated TVET institutions began to emerge only in the late 1990s with establishment of several postsecondary institutions, two secondary institutions for boys, government-run training academies, and the emergence of a private training market.

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Women Wanted: Attracting Women to Technical Fields in Qatar

  1. 1. 58 > qatar today > october 2013 H owever, technical vocational ed- ucation and training (TVET) has not been a significant focus of educational reform. Though the need for a technically-trained labour force was recognised by policymakers as early as the 1940s, when Qatar began exporting oil, dedicated TVET institutions began to emerge only in the late 1990s with the establishment of several post-secondary institutions, two second- ary institutions for boys, government-run training academies, and the emergence of a private training market. DespitetheproliferationofTVETinstitu- tions, many of the governance institutions that provide regulation and coordinate pol- icy and institutional stakeholders are still in a nascent state. TVET policies in Qatar have largely proceeded without a clear conceptu- alisation of what fields it encompasses and whether TVET leads to jobs that are accept- able to Qataris. The lack of a clear definition of what constitutes TVET and overcoming negative stereotypes related to TVET in Qatar are key challenges to policy forma- tion. TVET faces an identity crisis in which people are unhappy with its name, its image and its reputation. The missing half of the TVET debate While prior research has established that Qatari females attend higher education at much higher rates than males (Qatar To- day November 2012 cover story) and has explored reasons why men fail to continue into higher education, very few studies have explored why Qatari females pursue aca- demic education over TVET. There is also a lack of research concerning the labour mar- ket decisions of Qatari females and how the highly technical, knowledge-intensive fields expected to emerge as a result of Qatar’s knowledge-based economic development will shape the future education and employ- ment decisions of females. According to United Nations statistics, 73% of all students attending higher ed- business > viewpoint AttractingWomen toTechnicalFields inQatar Women Wanted OverthepastseveraldecadesQatarhasreformeditseducationand trainingsystemtoalignitwithmacroeconomicpoliciesaimedat advancingtowardsaknowledge-basedeconomy.
  2. 2. qatar today > october 2013 > 59 ucation programmes in Qatar are wom- en, second only to Bahrain in the Gulf Cooperation Council. However, only 38% of the students pursuing TVET education in Qatar are women, despite emerging em- ployment opportunities in technical fields. Qatar has one of the highest female labour market participation rates in the Arab world. Because a large number of women attend academic higher education and en- ter the labour market, many people view the lack of female enrolment and employ- ment in technical fields as a low priority issue. However, high female employment concentrations in select public sector fields is inconsistent with the country’s economic ambitions to grow technology- and innova- tion-driven industries as Qatar transitions to a knowledge-based economy. As Qatar prepares to host the World Cup in 2022 and continues to diversify its economy beyond the extractive industries, it must ensure that its education and training system is able to evolve to meet its economic ambi- tions, particularly with regard to the in- clusion of females in high-skill, high-wage technical fields. Challenges and barriers A strong commitment was made to TVET reform and female employment in the Qatar National Vision 2030, the National Development Strategy 2011-2016, and the Education and Training Sector Strategy in order to realise Qatar’s economic develop- ment ambitions. However, several gender issues related to TVET participation and la- bour market outcomes for women in Qatar deserve attention: Though improving, female enrolment in TVET is comparatively low Despite significant gains in reforming high- er education, several institutional gaps still exist, such as a lack of secondary TVET schools for women. This lack of secondary technical schools for women stands at odds with data released by the Qatar Statistics Authority (QSA), which show that Qatari women contribute significantly to emerg- ing technical sectors of the Qatari economy such as ICT, utilities provision, oil and gas, and technical research. The large number of female students who pursue an academic higher education pathway is heavily influ- enced by the absence of secondary TVET institutions for women, lack of early career guidance, and few experiential opportuni- tiesforgirlstobeexposedtotechnicalfields at a young age. Research by the General Secretariat industry sectors in which females earn more than/less than the average wage in the public sector sector and monthly average wage QATARIS EMPLOYED IN SECTOR FEMALE QATARI EMPLOYMENT AS % OF TOTAL QATARIS EMPLOYED IN SECTOR TOTAL FEMALES EMPLOYED IN SECTOR QAtari females as % of total females employed in sector agriculture, forestry, fishing (qr 4,405) 26 0% 55 0% mining and quarrying (qr 18,783) 7,738 12% 3,102 30% manufacturing (qr 6,614) 918 12% 691 16% electricity, gas, steam, air cond. (qr 18,424) 1,327 7% 479 21% water supply, sewerage, wastemgmt. (qr 13,431) 123 31% 38 100% Construction (qr 3,964) 709 11% 2,930 3% wholesale/retail trade, vehicle repair (qr 6,516) 1,451 25% 5,523 7% transportation and storage (qr 11,722) 1,466 8% 5,338 2% accommodation and food service (qr 6,375) 593 33% 2,990 6% information and communication (qr 18,483) 2.403 27% 2,783 24% financial and insurance services (qr 19,453) 2,802 52% 3,209 46% real estate activities (qr 14,017) 669 13% 369 23% prof., scientific and tech. activities (qr 7,756) 301 26% 1,583 5% administrative and support services (qr 5,935) 718 64% 2,390 19% public administration and defence (qr 22,898) 45,463 21% 13,805 69% education (qr 17,319) 10,652 84% 18,515 49% human health and social work (qr 17,068) 4,516 75% 11,796 29% art, entertainment and recreation (qr 13,969) 828 62% 752 69% other service activities (qr 6,460) 89 18% 680 2% activities of households as employers (qr 2,381) 0 0% 90,361 0% extraterritorial organisations (qr 18,287) 21 29% 331 2% 80% of Qatari females are employed in these section Less sector more -16,909 agriculture, forestry, fishing mining and quarrying 3,974 -7,279 manufacturing -5,040 electricity, gas, steam -3,586 water supply, sewerage, waste -7,874 Construction -12,112 wholesale/retail trade, vehicle repair -4,896 transportation and storage -11,267 accommodation and food service -2,226 information and communication -1,815 financial and insurance activities -2,960 real estate activities -8,112 prof., scientific and tech. activities -8,308 administrative and support services -2,596 education -2,733 human health and social work -500 art, entertainment and recreation -11,071 other service activities -17,439 activities of households activities of extraterritorial organisations 217 Source:QatarStatisticAuthority,2012Source:QatarStatisticAuthority,2012
  3. 3. 60 > qatar today > october 2013 for Development Planning (GSDP) shows that rates of return for short, technically- focused diploma studies exceed those for higher education. This means that, on av- erage, women who pursue technical diplo- mas make more in terms of average lifetime salaries than women who pursue academic tracks at the higher education level. Women receive fewer on-the-job training opportunities Over the past decade, the number of train- ing institutions that provide training pri- vately and in the workplace in Qatar has grown dramatically. This is due to the emergence of a private training market as well as several government and mixed companies establishing internal training units. While lack of policies concerning li- censing and quality control of the private training institutions has been highlighted as a high priority issue, a potentially bigger issue of concern is that data from the QSA show women receive substantially less on- the-job training than men once they are employed. As more women enter the labour marketandworkforlongerperiods,lowlev- els of training for women could potentially serve as a bottleneck that limits the overall effectiveness of organisations in Qatar. Women often wind up employed in the public sector, education and social work Evolving socio-cultural values often af- fect the education and career decisions of women. For example, while there has been a notable rise in the enrolment of women in TVET institutions, 80% of the Qatari fe- male labour force is employed in less tech- nical sectors such as public administration and defence, education, and human health and social work. According to the most recent Qatar labour market survey, not a single Qatari woman is employed in an oc- cupation in the international standard clas- sification of technical occupations, statisti- cally grouping for craft and related trades workers and plant and machine operators and assemblers. The clustering of women in select occupations in government, educa- tion and social work reflects a phenomenon found in other Arab countries too, where individuals who have received specialised academic or TVET training ultimately wind up employed in positions not related to their original training. Cultural factors strongly influence women’s choice of employment. A focus group convened by the GSDP and Minis- try of Labour revealed that females prefer employment in the government sector evolution of percentage of female students as a proportion of total students at tertiary-type b 5b level - mainly technical and vocational note: the uae only has data available for 2009; kuwait only has data available for 2011 from the kuwait central statistical bureau. 2003 '04 '05 '06 '07 '08 '09 '10 2011 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Relative to GCC countries, saudi arabia and qatar have lower female participation rates in tvet evolution of percentage of female students as a proportion of total students at tertiary-type a level - more advanced skills note: the uae only has data available for 2009; kuwait has data available only for 2003 and 2004, reflecting 65% participation for both years.  females in qatar make up 73% of all students attending higher education programmes  with the exception of bahrain, qatar has the highest number of women attending higher education programmes in the gcc 2003 '04 '05 '06 '07 '08 '09 '10 2011 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 80% 70% bahrain oman saudi arabia qatar uae kuwait Qataris Trained female Qataris Trained as % of total qataris Trained Training Location Government Ministries and Corporations Semi Government Corporations Private Training Centers Source:StateofKuwaitCentralStatisticBureau,2011;UNESCOInstituteforStatistics,2013al Source: Qatar Statistics Authority, 2011 20,529 1,440 38% 7,810 68% 44% other nationalities Trained 10,165 7,54418,670 female Trained as % of total other nationalities Trained 3% 51% 21% Below gender parity business > viewpoint
  4. 4. qatar today > october 2013 > 61 rather than privately-owned companies, since it is “conducive to their cultural requirements”. In addition to the socio-cul- tural values that shape career choice, the high comparative wages paid to females in the public sector and the sectors dominated by government-owned and mixed compa- nies over other technically focused sectors isasignificanteconomicdeterrenttofemale entry into more diverse disciplines. Accord- ing to Qatar’s recent labour market survey, the average monthly salary for women em- ployed in technical occupations (craft and related trades workers and plant and ma- chine operators and assemblers) is between QR2,369 to QR2,750. This amounts to 14% of what a woman would earn employed in a professional role in the public sector. Aver- age monthly wages outside the public sector are comparatively unattractive relative to the high average monthly wage of QR19,523 paid to women in the public sector. The ex- tractive sector is the only sector in Qatar to offer a monthly wage that exceeds the average in the public sector. Significant education and labour market reforms Strong TVET education systems have been showntohelpnationsprepareyoungpeople for careers in technical industries associat- ed with knowledge-based economies. High rates of participation by females in the la- bour market will be essential if Qatar is to reach its ambitious economic development goals. However, to ensure that females not only receive the training they need but also transition to technical fields, a number of barriers that serve as disincentives to TVET enrolment and women’s work in technical fields must be addressed. A priority for Qatar should be to offer op- tions for TVET education for females at the secondary level. The fact that females start their exposure to TVET later than males has many important repercussions, not only depriving females of exposure to TVET op- tionsbutalsosubtlyimplyingthatTVETed- ucationisworsethanacademiceducationor is not appropriate for females. The effect is likely to discourage females from pursuing TVET education at the post-secondary lev- el. Expanded institutional offerings should be accompanied by a rethinking of sponsor- ship and scholarship schemes, which serve to perpetuate existing stereotypes about the roles that women should perform and the types of education they pursue. To bolster the number of women in TVET education and jobs, Qatar must continue to emphasise technical vocational education and training for women while making tech- nical careers more competitive in terms of pay and status. Labour market policies must be pursued that reduce the pay and benefit differentials between the public sector and private sector employment in technical in- dustries. An initial step in achieving this is identifying economic sectors with the po- tential to generate high-skill, high-wage employment opportunities for women. Giv- en Qatar’s strong economic performance in the finance, aviation and hospitality indus- tries, these might be areas to expand TVET options. A long-term public awareness campaign that highlights women who are successful in TVET fields and focuses on the value of TVET to Qatar’s development will also be essential. Young women need more female role models in technical fields and must be exposed to technical industries through structured programmes and partnerships. Employers who require technically-trained staff must also make a concerted effort to enticemorewomenintotechnicalsectorsof the labour market by engaging universities and training institutes, providing direct- ed career guidance, and offering scholar- ships. On-the-job training and mentorships can further enhance the role of women in technical careers in Qatar. The role of women beyond 2022 While some have suggested that the award- ing of the World Cup 2022 to Qatar has brought clarity to economic sectors that could provide employment opportunities over the next several years, Qatar must re- tainitsfocuson2030andbeyond.Whilethe World Cup will create economic and job op- portunities over the next decade, it remains unclear if these positions will be of interest to women and whether the employment opportunities created will be in line with Qatar’s focus on creating innovative, skilled industries associated with knowledge econ- omies. As the recent Olympics held in Lon- don showed, many of the jobs created by large showcase events are concentrated in the construction and retail sectors, which currently do not offer sufficient wages to at- tract Qataris. Qatar will have to think hard about whether gearing the education and trainingsystemtoaccommodatelarge-scale events like the World Cup may ultimately stray from the vision articulated in the Qa- tar National Vision 2030 and National De- velopment Strategy, which emphasises the development of innovation-driven, knowl- edge-based industries that can sustain the country’s rapid economic growth By Walid Aradi and wes schwalje , Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer at Consulting About Tahseen Consulting Tahseen Consulting is a specialised advisor on strategic and organisational issues, focusing on governments, social sector institutions and corporations in the Arab world. With deep experience developing and monitoring technical vocational education and training systems in the Arab world, it aligns national educational systems with broader economic development, business and social measures. To learn more, visit www.tahseen.ae.