The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations

By Michael L. Ross | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Petroleum Perpetuates Patriarchy

The utilization of Arab women’s capabilities through political
and economic participation remains the lowest in the world
in quantitative terms, as evidenced by the very low share of
women in parliaments, cabinets, and the work force and in the
trend towards the feminization of unemployment.… Society
as a whole suffers when a huge proportion of its productive
potential is stifled, resulting in lower family incomes and
standards of living.

Arab Human Development Report, 2002

As COUNTRIES GET RICHER, women typically gain more opportunities— both economic opportunities in the workplace, and political opportunities to serve in government. Yet this has not occurred in countries that get rich by selling petroleum. The benefits of oil booms usually go to men.

This effect has been strongest in the Middle East, where there are fewer women in both the workforce and parliaments than in any other region in the world. The low status of Middle Eastern women is often blamed on the region’s Islamic, or Arab, heritage. But this explanation is faulty, or at least incomplete.

Almost all societies have had strong patriarchal traditions in their recent past. One hundred years ago, many traditional cultures in Latin America, East Asia, and South Asia were as patriarchal—probably even more so—than the traditional cultures of the Middle East. Yet in Latin America, East Asia, and South Asia, economic growth led to rapid improvements in the status of women, while similar or higher growth rates in the Middle East have produced relatively few gains. Why has economic growth diluted the strength of patriarchal culture in other regions but not in the Middle East?

This chapter explains why growth that is based on industrialization tends to draw women into the workforce and ultimately lead to female empowerment. Growth that is based on the sale of oil and gas, however, does not produce more jobs for women, and can even block the path toward gender rights.

-111-

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The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Tables xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Country Abbreviations xix
  • Chapter One - The Paradoxical Wealth of Nations 1
  • Chapter Two - The Trouble with Oil Revenues 27
  • Chapter Three - More Petroleum, Less Democracy 63
  • Chapter Four - Petroleum Perpetuates Patriarchy 111
  • Chapter Five - Oil-Based Violence 145
  • Chapter Six - Oil, Economic Growth, and Political Institutions 189
  • Chapter Seven - Good News and Bad News about Oil 223
  • References 255
  • Index 281
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