With 60% of the population under the age of 30, the Arab region has one of the youngest populations in the world, a key driver for change. However, and despite improvements, a deep gender gap continues to hold back the region. By 2015, women made up 48.2% of the total Arab population  and 21.5% of the total labor force in the region. Improvements in the health sector have benefitted women in the Arab region, with the maternal mortality rate declining by 34.4% between 2000 and 2015 and the percentage of births attended by skilled health personnel increasing from 50% in the 1990s to 78.2% in2012.
In education attainment, the Gender Parity Index reached 1.0 at the pre-primary and tertiary education levels and 0.9 at the primary and secondary education stages in 2014 with 12 Arab countries achieving gender parity in primary education in 2013. The largest gender disparities in tertiary education are observed in Yemen and Mauritania with a Gender Parity Index of 0.4 and 0.5 in 2011 and 2015 respectively. The girl’s gross enrollment ratio in tertiary education (28.2%) is higher than that of boy’s in Arab countries (26.8%) in 2013. The gross enrollment in primary education is much higher, reaching 96.1% for girls and 103.2% for boys in 2013. The highest tertiary enrollment rates for girls are observed in Saudi Arabia (59.9% in 2014) followed by Bahrain (56.5% in 2014). On the downside, the latest available tertiary enrollment rates for girls are below 10% in Mauritania, Djibouti, Yemen and Comoros.
Although the number of women receiving education—mostly in oil-rich countries—and women's education levels have been increasing over the past decade, gender-based disparities continue in the labor market, both in terms of income and opportunities to find a job or start a company.
Compared to men, women face a higher risk of unemployment and more barriers to entry to the labor market. Women’s unemployment rate in the Arab region has decreased over the last sixteen years from 22.4% in 2000 to 19.96% in 2015 but is still very high compared to men’s unemployment rate of 8.96% and to the world average of 6.2%.
The political space remains the most challenging for women. Women’s political participation has increased in the last sixteen years but is still limited. The proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments considerably increased from 3.8% in 2000 to 18.7% in 2015 but is still lower than the world average of 22.5% in 2015. Similarly, while the world average proportion of women in ministerial level positions scored 17.7% in 2015, the Arab regions’ proportion reached 10.5% in 2015 up from 7% in 2005.
Many countries in the Arab world have been working to bridge the gender divide through policy interventions, women's economic empowerment, increasing political visibility through nongovernmental organizations and reforming the legal framework. As a result, a growing number of actions have been taken against inequality, but much more is needed.
This overview has been drafted by the ADP team based on most available data as of 30 September 2016.
The political space remains the most challenging for women in the Arab region. Women’s political participation has improved in the last sixteen years but is still limited. The proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments considerably increased from 3.8% in 2000 to 18.7% in 2015, but is still lower than the world average of 22.5% in 2015.