American University of Beirut, Suliman S. Olayan School of Business
The KIP and Lived Experience Indices
The KIP and Lived Experience Indices are the first sector-based participatory measures of women-inclusive policies, practices, and experiences across 11 countries and eight sectors in the Middle East and North Africa.
Call to Action
Across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, there is a dire data deficit regarding women’s work experiences and employer practices and policies concerning women’s recruitment, retention, and promotion (RRP). Indeed, for some countries and sectors, data on inclusive HR is non-existent. This is a critical gap, particularly in light of the long-standing need to improve women’s economic participation in the region’s formal economies. By all estimates, women’s participation in the MENA is in need of improvement through mechanisms that balance increasing labor force participation and ensuring dignified work.
On every relevant index, the MENA region ranks the lowest globally. Estimates of female labor force participation by the International Labour Organization in 2019 showed only 20.3 percent of women in the region engaged in formal work. This is compared to the global average of 47.2 percent, with female unemployment estimates being three times higher than the world average. The solution is not straightforward, however, what is clear is that investing in strategies for the dignified and responsible RRP of women is key, and that for real change to happen, employers and women employees must be a part of the solution.
To be effective, regional economic stakeholders need locally generated, regionally informed, evidence-driven knowledge on specific improvement strategies. Gaps in regional data loom wide and suggest a need for research on the contextual realities from the perspective of both employers and the women themselves in order to really understand the intersectional forces shaping the status of women in the formal economies of the MENA.
To fill the regional data deficit and support the building of more dignified and inclusive HR systems, we fostered a network of regional partners, and together, we developed two indices: The first is The KIP Index, a regional, sector-based measure that tracks local employer practices and policies regarding the RRP of women. Based on survey data collected from over 2,000 employers in six sectors—STEM, healthcare, education, financial services, professional services, and other services—this index provides a measure of inclusive RRP across 11 MENA countries. The second is The Lived Experience Index, which is based on qualitative interviews with over 550 female citizens tracking their personal experiences of being recruited, retained, and promoted in the same sectors and countries.
In addition to measuring the relative differences between sectors, both indices measure the relative differences between three country groupings:
- Resource-poor, labor-abundant countries, such as Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and Algeria
- Resource-rich, labor-abundant countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco
- Resource-rich, labor-importing countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait
Evidence-based findings were obtained, and actionable recommendations for policy change were developed and customized for each country grouping and each sector.
We are currently in the process of gathering data for the second iterations, and are working with approximately 80 medium and large employers to draft RRP policies as well as devising concrete implementation strategies based on the results of the indices. We have also developed and facilitated an executive education curriculum with over 480 managers from across the region based on this data.
The first impact is generating actionable knowledge for human resource managers and departments to ensure effective and efficient practices, while simultaneously centering dignity, well-being, and inclusion as core values. Our indices focus on directly engaging employers, especially those who aim to promote more inclusive HR systems.
The second impact is to capture nuances in the experiences of women’s formal and paid work across different sectors of regional workplaces through the data collected and analyzed. Nuance is important in that it begins to unpack the heterogeneous stereotypes often presented about Arab women, as if they are somehow uniform in background, experience, and/or circumstance.
The third impact is to decrease the data deficit in the region by utilizing The KIP Index and The Lived Experience Index. Both indices provide employers with knowledge on specific workplace strategies, identify internal practices that are discriminatory, and drive more inclusive HR systems, which in turn enhance productivity. Moving forward, they will improve RRP of women in the formal economy, creating secure and dignified work opportunities, and enhancing the overall livelihood of women through access to wages and other resources. This work has been supported by the U.S. Department of State Middle East Partner Initiative program with over 5 million USD in funding.