International trade, female labor, and entrepreneurship in MENA countries
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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