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Higher education, employment, and women in the United Arab Emirates: An analysis of student perspectives and opportunities in the labor market

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Abstract:

This study attempts to explore the attitudes of university-enrolled Emirati women towards the labor force and examine their academic preparedness for entry-level positions in both the public and private sectors. With the recent support for advanced degree programs by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government, we are left to question how well undergraduate education prepares its women to enter an ever-evolving and competitive job market in one of the most global cities in the world, Dubai. Since its inception, the UAE has been largely supportive of “Education for All” and recently placed much emphasis on higher education for women by establishing a federally funded women university in 1998. Motivation behind higher education can be attributed to several economic and political factors that account for the growing population and economy of Dubai. According to a study by Hijazi et.al (2008), between the years 1997 and 2008 over 55 colleges and universities were formed, exponentially increasing growth and development for nationals and expatriates alike. Despite the emphasis on women’s education and training, the unemployment rate among the local Emirati population stands at 14 percent as of January 2013 and only 0.5 percent of the Emirati labor force is employed in the private sector (Gulf News, 2013). In 2012, the unemployment rate of women reached 10.8 percent, compared to 2.4 percent for men (Emirates 24/7, 2012). Are young university female students unprepared and unqualified when faced with a competitive job market dominated by foreign expatriates? Or are their career choices influenced by factors such as family life, whereby 80 percent of today’s Emirati women students are first-generation college attendees and the daughters of uneducated mothers (Madsen & Cook, 2010)? Essentially, is women’s unemployment due to generational, cultural, and personal reasons or lack of preparation in college? With a growing push by the government to create job opportunities for local citizens, a closer look at women's career choices and education is crucial to understand the source of unemployment from the perspective of Emirati women.
Most research on this topic discusses the rate of unemployment and worker readiness as it relates to the Emirati male population. Simadi (2006) and Pech (2009) identified religious values as being the most important ones among Emirati students aged 18 to 25 at UAEU (United Arab Emirates University), with economic/work values such as productivity and profitability coming last in students’ hierarchy of values. The study indicated students felt their personal/religious lives and their professional ones were disconnected. Some scholars have addressed women in higher education as it relates to transformative learning (Madsen & Cook, 2010), but little research focuses on female student perspectives and opportunities upon graduation. Given that women make up 70 percent of college graduates in the UAE (Madsen & Cook, 2010), shedding light on the relationship between higher education and women’s careers is important.
To that end, this study will identify several factors that explain women’s unemployment by analyzing the issue bilaterally. The study will assess the level of formation and preparedness received in federal higher education institutions and identify whether women’s academic careers match the demands of the job market in Dubai. The study will then analyze female students’ motivation to work after graduating from college by reviewing factors such as family pressures, generational differences, personal motivation, and salary expectations among others. To answer these questions, a quantitative survey will be given to roughly 200 Emirati students between the ages of 18 to 24 currently attending public universities in the emirate of Dubai. The survey will examine student perspectives on workplace readiness, academic preparedness and cultural philosophy on employment. The paper will start by reviewing current literature on Emiratization, women in the UAE labor force, and higher education in the UAE to determine whether previous authors and scholars have identified the root causes of the problem and whether solutions are available. After analyzing survey results and identifying the main findings of the research project, the last part of the study will offer recommendations to professionals in higher education in the UAE and to government officials as to how they can prepare Emirati women to enter the labor force and meet the various challenges that women face during their academic and professional careers.
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Association:
Name: Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference
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Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p706784_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Trepagnier, Kelly. and Chehab, Sara. "Higher education, employment, and women in the United Arab Emirates: An analysis of student perspectives and opportunities in the labor market" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Mar 10, 2014 <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p706784_index.html>

APA Citation:

Trepagnier, K. and Chehab, S. , 2014-03-10 "Higher education, employment, and women in the United Arab Emirates: An analysis of student perspectives and opportunities in the labor market" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p706784_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: This study attempts to explore the attitudes of university-enrolled Emirati women towards the labor force and examine their academic preparedness for entry-level positions in both the public and private sectors. With the recent support for advanced degree programs by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government, we are left to question how well undergraduate education prepares its women to enter an ever-evolving and competitive job market in one of the most global cities in the world, Dubai. Since its inception, the UAE has been largely supportive of “Education for All” and recently placed much emphasis on higher education for women by establishing a federally funded women university in 1998. Motivation behind higher education can be attributed to several economic and political factors that account for the growing population and economy of Dubai. According to a study by Hijazi et.al (2008), between the years 1997 and 2008 over 55 colleges and universities were formed, exponentially increasing growth and development for nationals and expatriates alike. Despite the emphasis on women’s education and training, the unemployment rate among the local Emirati population stands at 14 percent as of January 2013 and only 0.5 percent of the Emirati labor force is employed in the private sector (Gulf News, 2013). In 2012, the unemployment rate of women reached 10.8 percent, compared to 2.4 percent for men (Emirates 24/7, 2012). Are young university female students unprepared and unqualified when faced with a competitive job market dominated by foreign expatriates? Or are their career choices influenced by factors such as family life, whereby 80 percent of today’s Emirati women students are first-generation college attendees and the daughters of uneducated mothers (Madsen & Cook, 2010)? Essentially, is women’s unemployment due to generational, cultural, and personal reasons or lack of preparation in college? With a growing push by the government to create job opportunities for local citizens, a closer look at women's career choices and education is crucial to understand the source of unemployment from the perspective of Emirati women.
Most research on this topic discusses the rate of unemployment and worker readiness as it relates to the Emirati male population. Simadi (2006) and Pech (2009) identified religious values as being the most important ones among Emirati students aged 18 to 25 at UAEU (United Arab Emirates University), with economic/work values such as productivity and profitability coming last in students’ hierarchy of values. The study indicated students felt their personal/religious lives and their professional ones were disconnected. Some scholars have addressed women in higher education as it relates to transformative learning (Madsen & Cook, 2010), but little research focuses on female student perspectives and opportunities upon graduation. Given that women make up 70 percent of college graduates in the UAE (Madsen & Cook, 2010), shedding light on the relationship between higher education and women’s careers is important.
To that end, this study will identify several factors that explain women’s unemployment by analyzing the issue bilaterally. The study will assess the level of formation and preparedness received in federal higher education institutions and identify whether women’s academic careers match the demands of the job market in Dubai. The study will then analyze female students’ motivation to work after graduating from college by reviewing factors such as family pressures, generational differences, personal motivation, and salary expectations among others. To answer these questions, a quantitative survey will be given to roughly 200 Emirati students between the ages of 18 to 24 currently attending public universities in the emirate of Dubai. The survey will examine student perspectives on workplace readiness, academic preparedness and cultural philosophy on employment. The paper will start by reviewing current literature on Emiratization, women in the UAE labor force, and higher education in the UAE to determine whether previous authors and scholars have identified the root causes of the problem and whether solutions are available. After analyzing survey results and identifying the main findings of the research project, the last part of the study will offer recommendations to professionals in higher education in the UAE and to government officials as to how they can prepare Emirati women to enter the labor force and meet the various challenges that women face during their academic and professional careers.


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