Examining Emirati Female Labour Force Participation and Entrepreneurship in the UAE

in collaboration with Zayed University

LSE PI: Dr Berkay Ozcan
Co-PIs: Dr Gina Poncini & Dr Wifag Adnan
Duration: October 2014–September 2017

Elham Al Qasimi Giving a TEDxWWF Talk, Sean Brady Photography, 2013.

This project investigated female labour force participation and entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates, taking into account themes of national culture, values, identity and heritage, which are not usually captured by conventional labour force surveys nor addressed systematically in the limited qualitative research available. The MENA region is associated with the lowest female labor force participation rate as well as the largest gender gap in labor force participation. While the Gulf may be a special case due to the high number of female nationals employed in public sector jobs with generous benefits and high job security, this kind of job creation is recognized as unsustainable and has led to new initiatives.

Recent government initiatives in the United Arab Emirates, such as those by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, aim to encourage entrepreneurship among Emiratis. Goals for a diversified economy are more likely to be achieved when coupled with insight into how Emirati women make decisions regarding labor force participation and how factors related to culture, values, identity, and heritage come into play. Moreover, networking and mentoring have been indicated as contributing to the success of female entrepreneurs and initiatives supporting them in many countries. With determinants of female labor supply connected to themes of culture, values, identity and heritage, a multidisciplinary approach combining quantitative and qualitative methods has been crucial to gaining a more in-depth understanding of the decision-making process regarding female entrepreneurship and labor force participation in a way that cannot be captured by one discipline.

This project forms part of the Academic Collaboration with Arab Universities Programme, funded by the Emirates Foundation.

Research Team


Berkay Ozcan | Principal Investigator

Berkay is Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Policy at LSE. His research examines the interplay between family processes and economic outcomes. 


Gina Poncini | Co-Principal Investigator

Gina is Associate Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi. 


Wifag Adnan | Co-Prinicipal Investigator

Wifag is a labour economist and Assistant Professor of Economics at New York University Abu Dhabi. 


Cevat Giray | Research Assistant

Cevat is a PhD candidate in Economics at LSE. Much of his scholarly work lies at the intersection between labour markets and population issues. 


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