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International trade, female labor, and entrepreneurship in MENA countries

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  • Silvio Contessi
  • Francesca de Nicola
  • Li Li

Abstract

Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries stand out in international comparisons of de jure obstacles to female employment and entrepreneurship. These obstacles are mirrored in low female labor rate participation and low entrepreneurship and ownership rates. Recent research suggests a connection between international trade and female labor participation. In this article, the authors focus on the relationship between international trade and gender in the MENA countries first analyzing female labor as a production factor, and then focusing on female entrepreneurship and firm ownership. Using country and industry-level data the authors identify countries and industries characterized by comparative advantage in female-labor. They find suggestive evidence that there is a strict link between a country specialization and its measures of female labor participation consistent with theories of brain-based technological bias. Using firm-level data, the authors then study whether trade empowers female entrepreneurs in countries-industries that exhibit comparative advantage. The authors conclude that evidence supports the view that exposure to trade affects disproportionately firms in country-industries with a comparative advantage in female labor – both in terms of female employment and female entrepreneurship and ownership – in the MENA countries and for the period they study.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2012-053.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2012-053

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Keywords: International trade ; Women - Employment ; Entrepreneurship;

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  1. Oded Galor & David N. Weil, 1993. "The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth," NBER Working Papers 4550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. James Harrigan & Ariell Reshef, 2011. "Skill Biased Heterogeneous Firms, Trade Liberalization, and the Skill Premium," NBER Working Papers 17604, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Leonardi, Marco, 2005. "Firm Heterogeneity in Capital labor Ratios and Wage Inequality," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt1g9514wh, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  4. Do, Quy-Toan & Levchenko, Andrei A., 2006. "Comparative advantage, demand for external finance, and financial development," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3889, The World Bank.
  5. Almeida, Heitor & Wolfenzon, Daniel, 2005. "The effect of external finance on the equilibrium allocation of capital," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 133-164, January.
  6. Michelle Rendall, 2010. "Brain versus Brawn: The Realization of Women's Comparative Advantage," 2010 Meeting Papers 926, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  7. Hallward-Driemeier, Mary & Aterido, Reyes, 2009. "Comparing Apples with....Apples : how to make (more) sense of subjective rankings of constraints to business," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5054, The World Bank.
  8. Philip Sauré & Hosny Zoabi, 2009. "Effects of Trade on Female Labor Force Participation," Working Papers 2009-12, Swiss National Bank.
  9. Quy-Toan Do & Andrei A. Levchenko & Claudio Raddatz, . "Comparative Advantage, International Trade, and Fertility," Working Papers 624, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  10. Jonathan Vogel & Ariel Burstein, 2012. "International trade, technology, and the skill premium," 2012 Meeting Papers 664, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. Ernesto Aguayo-Tellez & Jim Airola & Chinhui Juhn, 2010. "Did Trade Liberalization Help Women? The Case of Mexico in the 1990s," NBER Working Papers 16195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Do, Quy-Toan & Levchenko, Andrei A. & Raddatz, Claudio, 2011. "Engendering trade," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5777, The World Bank.
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