About the publication
The historic events of 2011 sparked unprecedented political, economic and social change in
the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Citizens’ calls for greater social equity, more equal
opportunities and stronger economic development have placed job creation at the centre of public
policy concerns. Governments in the MENA regions are presented with the challenge and the
opportunity to explore new sources of economic growth to generate jobs for the 2.8 million men
and women who will enter the labour market every year. This will require pursuing an intense
policy reform agenda including an improved business environment, labour market reforms and
investment and equal access to education and skills formation for men and women.
Entrepreneurship is a major untapped source of growth in a region where the number of
existing enterprises and the rate of business creation are well below those in other developing
regions. Entrepreneurship is, among others, affected by prior work experience and by education. In
the MENA economies, far fewer women than men participate in paid employment: only 27% of
women join the labour force compared with 76% of men; this is also below the 51% female labour
force participation rate in low- and middle-income as well as in advanced economies. Hence,
enabling women to contribute to the economy as employees and entrepreneurs represents a major
opportunity to boost competitiveness, growth and job creation.
This publication is the first comparative assessment of policy measures to promote women’s
entrepreneurship in 18 MENA economies. The report recognises that MENA governments have
made progress over the past decade in closing the gender gap, especially in the area of education,
but that much more could be done to reduce gender inequality in economic activity. Better
designed and resourced policies, stronger public-private dialogue and targeted measures to
increase women’s access to financing, information and business support services are key priorities
for MENA governments to help unleash the potential of their women entrepreneurs.
Equal access for women to economic opportunities is a challenge both in the MENA region
and globally. The OECD initiative on Gender Equality in Education, Employment and
Entrepreneurship shows that many of the obstacles in MENA countries that prevent women from
contributing to economic growth and benefitting from it can also be observed in developed
No country in the world can generate sustainable and inclusive economic growth when the
talents of half of its population are underutilised. Gender equality is key for the potential of an
economy, for the inclusiveness of a society and, not least, for the opportunities of men and women.
The OECD is committed to working with partners in the MENA region, and around the world, to
design, promote and implement better gender equality policies for better lives.