It has been noted that women’s participation in the global labour market has significantly increased over the past two centuries. However, the gap between male and female participation rates remains and women continue to face difficulties in fully participating in paid work. Such challenges include social, cultural and economic factors that permeate the inclusion and acceptance process. Simultaneously, their male peers continue to enjoy a warm reception in the labour market and are more actively recruited to most sectors of industry.
Numerous solutions have been considered in regions where women’s involvement in the labour market is regarded as less than optimal. Oman’s government, for example, has made efforts to increase the participation of Omani women in the total labour force to levels that will ensure progressive growth of the Omani labour market. Although the number of women in the Omani workforce is increasing significantly compared to previous years, many challenges still hinder Omani women’s participation in the labour market. To address this issue, it is also critical to look into cultural and institutional frameworks, which have been viewed as deleterious towards women when compared to men.
This dissertation attempts to discern the cultural and institutional factors influencing women's work/care regime in The Sultanate of Oman. The thesis consists of two qualitative studies and one quantitative study. Interviews were conducted to gather qualitative data on women’s attitudes to labour market participation and the barriers they face. Survey data was collected to better understand Omani women’s career aspirations.
This dissertation finds that increasing the level of women’s education is among the best solutions for increasing their involvement in the Omani labour market. The research finds illiteracy or being only semi-literate, has been a contributing factor to their employment in low paying jobs with poor working conditions. It is notable however that with increased education and an increased number of Omani graduates, a decline in employment opportunities in the public sector, privatisation of public sector authorities, a rapid increase in opportunities and the reforming of work conditions in the private sector, more Omani women are expected to join the private sector in the future. Private sector employment is not an area that has been favoured by Omani women in the past. In addition, there have been developments in government policies—such as the labour law and policies under the Public Authority for Social Insurance—that aim to ensure that private sector employers provide a better workplace environment for women. Further, the dissertation finds that the changes and developments in Oman’s cultural and institutional framework should provide Omani women a greater opportunity to seek higher levels of education and employment at quality jobs. However, some important elements of Omani culture—such as women’s household roles—may continue to be considered barriers to Omani women’s workplace participation.
The dissertation also found that, in case of Oman, variations in values, beliefs and assumptions exist even within a relatively homogenous cultural context. These variations within the national culture have a considerable impact on women’s share of the labour force. Family, as an institution, affects women’s participation in the labour market in two ways: as a force for women’s economic activity in society—for many decades women worldwide were involved in the labour force primarily due to economic needs—and as obligations and commitments that discourage women’s labour market participation. Therefore, there is a need to address the issue of family as an institution in order to promote women’s participation in the labour market.
The final study demonstrates a positive relationship between career aspirations of Omani women and the propensity to maximise these aspirations. This relationship is influenced by gender, age, sector, social expectation, educational pursuits, religion, work regulation, occupational commitment, family commitment, individualism and collectivism. The thesis concludes with a set of policy recommendations.