Women in Arab countries: challenging the patriarchal system ?

Population and Societies

387, February 2003

  • Oil and fertility
  • An emerging group: young never-married women
  • Increasingly better educated, but less economically active than men
  • The end of the patriarchal system


The stark picture of human development in the Arab world painted in a report written for the United Nations by leading Arab researchers became the subject of impassioned debate in late summer 2002. They found that it was being seriously undermined by failings on three fronts: civil and political freedom, knowledge production and dissemination, and empowerment of women [1]. All—but especially the latter— are seen as the main factors of demographic transition, especially fertility reduction. Women’s status, therefore, should be reflected in continuing high fertility. But is that the case?

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