Female empowerment crucial to growth

Liam Ward-Proud
Malaysian Prime Minister and World Islamic Economic Forum patron Najib Razak gave the opening address of this year’s Forum, using his speech to raise the issue of female labour participation rates in the Islamic World.

“It is time to put women at the heart of our economic system,” he said. “Greater involvement of women in the workforce will help to deliver growth in an increasingly competitive world.”

Figures from the World Bank show that, of the 20 worst-performing nations worldwide for female participation in the labour force, 19 are Muslim majority countries.

Just 18 per cent of women in Saudi Arabia are counted as part of the workforce, while Turkey’s rate has increased from 25 to 28 per cent since 2008. This compares to 44 per cent for Malaysia and 56 per cent in the UK.

“Better education, the smartest investment of all, is the first way we can improve this,” Razak said. The Prime Minister also listed structural reforms aimed at a more flexible labour market, a sharper focus on the provision of childcare, and quotas for corporate gender diversity as potential solutions.