A report claims the wealth of Gulf women is $ 385 billion

By Iqbal Tamimi

A report released in Dubai today claims that the wealth of Gulf women is estimated at $ 385 billion. Another report published last year by ‘Emirates Today’ claimed the size of projects run by women in the Gulf States is about $ 38 Billion. A third report published last year by Alhaya claims, that Shafiq al-Asadi from ‘Advantage Management and Consulting and Finance’ has anticipated that Gulf women’s wealth is expected to grow up to $100 billion last year.

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Clearly there are too many contradicting reports about the estimated wealth of GCC women, but all of them strive to offer positive visibility  and reflect an image of wealthy, active and working GCC women who have assets that can contribute to the wealth of the local economy, even though things are not that simple, since women’s participation is perceived in different GCC states differently and so is the encouragement and facilities provided for them. For example, there is a huge difference between the amount of support and encouragement women get in UAE compared to that in Saudi Arabia where women are still chained with male guardianship limitations, segregation and social bias and gender discrimination.

The report released today by Almasa Capital Limited investigating alternative asset management says that women make 41% of the population of the Gulf countries, and the percentage of working women is 16%. Saudi Arabia and UAE embracing almost three-quarters of the total female workforce in the Gulf region, which is estimated at 1.75 million women. 

The report says that Saudi Arabia contributes to 54% of the total female labor force in the Gulf region, followed by the UAE by 700 thousand working women, while the rest of the GCC contributes to the rest; Kuwait, 10%, Oman, 6%, Qatar, 5% and Bahrain 4%. 

Mr Shailesh Dash, Founder and CEO of Al Masah Capital, said ‘in many cases, women’s wealth is invested in safe assets such as bonds and cash and bank deposits’.

This report does not reflect accurate information since it implies that working women’s force is of local nationals when talking about assets, while in reality the vast majority of working women in the GCC are expatriates, many of whom are very poor labour working on low earnings, while the wealth report is talking about the assets of GCC women nationals.

Towards the end of 2004, the GCC states were inhabited by 12.5 million foreigners, who constituted 37 per cent of the total population. In Qatar, the UAE, and Kuwait, foreigners constituted a majority; in the United Arab Emirates they accounted for over 80 per cent of population. Only Oman and Saudi Arabia managed to maintain a relatively low proportion of foreigners; about 20 and 27 per cent, respectively

A recently published report showed that 69% of women working as domestic help in Saudi Arabia  came from deprived communities infested with poverty.

A human Rights Watch report published in 2010 says as well, 700 thousand foreign women work as maids in Kuwait and another report of 131 pages released in 2007 claimed the governments of the Gulf countries, including UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have failed to curb serious abuses against Sri Lankan domestic workers. There are more than 660,000 Sri Lankan women working as domestic help, 90 per cent of them in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Lebanon. This huge women work force is based in the GCC but that does not mean that they are contributing to its wealth, making the above mentioned report to some extent confusing.

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