Speech by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Yannick Glemarec at a parallel session during the second Syria conference in Brussels

Remarks delivered by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Yannick Glemarec at a parallel session during the EU-UN Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”, seeking to raise awareness on the added value of women's engagement in the economic recovery of the region. The side event took place on Wednesday, 25 April, at the Council of the European Union in Brussels.


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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Women’s engagement in the labour market is critical for recovery.

In 2012 the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated that globally an additional US$1.6 trillion in output could be generated by reducing the gap in employment between women and men.

In the MENA region, studies show that if gender gap in the workforce were reduced by 20 percentage points, it could boost the GDP by $415 billion. And in Jordan, the UN estimates that if employment occupations were reshuffled between women and men to ensure more equal distribution, the gross domestic product would increase by 5 per cent, the equivalent of almost USD 2 billion per year.

Yet, between 1995 and 2015, the global female labour force participation rate decreased from 52.4 to 49.6 per cent and in the Arab region, women’s numbers in the labour markets are the lowest globally. And it is estimated that, based on current trends that it would take 157 years to close the gender gap in labour market participation

We often hear that education is the key. Education is important. But the gender gap in education has been mostly eliminated in Arab States region, this has only had a small positive impact on women’s participation in the economic life. This is an indication of the type and quality of the jobs created in the economy that women feel that they can access.

So, what can we do?

We know the legal framework makes a significant difference to women’s engagement in the economy. This is reiterated in the Sustainable Development Goals which call for the implementation of policies and legal reforms that remove structural barriers, challenge discriminatory norms and ensure adequate social protection, and in the agenda of the Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on economic empowerment, hosted by UN Women.

We also know that the answer is in a well-functioning and responsible private sector. And equally women central to a robust and healthy private sector; data from 2013 found that globally, publicly traded companies with greater diversity were 70 per cent more likely to capture new markets and 45 per cent more likely to improve market shares. But to be effective as a tool for poverty mitigation and growth, the jobs offered must meet ILO standards of decent work – they must meet minimum wage standards and guard against sexual harassment and discrimination. 

The Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) offer an integrated framework to guide businesses - regardless of size, sector or geography – on how to promote gender equality and to empower women – both refugees and host country nationals - in the workplace, marketplace and community.

Thank you.