The key argument of this essay is that the increased educational attainment of women who are citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is leading to noticeable increases in female labor force participation. As a result of this development, the emergence of new labor market structures characterized by “segmented feminization” is being witnessed in which richer households contain women working in the paid labor force in professional jobs, while poorer households contain mothers, wives, and adult daughters with lower amounts of formal education who do not work outside the home. This development is not taking place without resistance. The struggle to increase employment opportunities for women is noisy and contentious. Complex class politics are interacting with a rentier political culture that supports the extensive use of expatriate workers. Nevertheless, the evidence discussed in this essay suggests that the segmented feminization of GCC labor forces will become a long-term characteristic of these societies. This trend could lead to increasingly differentiated income levels, fertility experiences, and ideological commitments among the national populations of the region. What seems to be a seamless order of extreme male dominance is actually fraught with significant contradictions. Studying these fissures more deeply should be a high priority for scholars concerned with understanding the future of Arabian Peninsula societies.

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