Contender for PP champion

I sometimes speculate on which country exemplifies the Paula Principle at its most powerful.  The most obvious contenders are Japan and, especially, Korea.  In both countries, women are very highly educated, to degree level and beyond, and yet the gender pay gap remains very large.

The case of Korea is particularly striking, as women are well represented in science and engineering, so their careers are not as constrained by subject choice as they are elsewhere.  (Role models may be a slightly tricky issue there, with their first female president having been removed on charges of corruption.)

But now there’s another possible champion.  Step forward Saudi Arabia.  The country now has more female than male graduates – but with extraordinarily few outlets for them to use their skills and qualifications.    We’re not talking about prejudices in recruitment, or subtle gender bias.  We’re talking about laws that require women to seek the permission of their ‘guardians’ before they can do a whole range of things, from moving about unaccompanied to applying for jobs.

The point is that these stresses are now showing.  The Economist recently ran a piece on how Saudi women are no leaving the country, many of them clandestinely in order to escape the clutches of their guardians and the cleric-dominated judiciary who will rule on their status.  Figures on how many are involved in this flight are hard to come by, but one estimate is that over a thousand a year are fleeing.

Whilst it’s doubtful that many see this as a significant economic, as opposed to social, challenge, it is likely that in a few years Saudi Arabia will have to pay attention to the loss of human capital.  If oil incomes start to falter, the ‘runaways’ will start to matter even more.

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