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Explaining the MENA Paradox: Rising Educational Attainment, Yet Stagnant Female Labor Force Participation

Author

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  • Assaad, Ragui

    () (University of Minnesota)

  • Hendy, Rana

    () (Doha Institute for Graduate Studies)

  • Lassassi, Moundir

    () (Center for Research in Applied Economics for Development)

  • Yassin, Shaimaa

    () (University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Abstract

Despite rapidly rising female educational attainment and the closing if not reversal of the gender gap in education, female labor force participation rates in the MENA region remain low and stagnant, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the "MENA paradox." Even if increases in participation are observed, they are typically in the form of rising unemployment. We argue in this paper that female labor force participation among educated women in four MENA countries - Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia - is constrained by adverse developments in the structure of employment opportunities on the demand side. Specifically, we argue that the contraction in public sector employment opportunities has not been made up by a commensurate increase in opportunities in the formal private sector, leading to increases in female unemployment or declines in participation. We use multinomial logit models estimated on annual labor force survey data by country to simulate trends in female participation in different labor market states (public sector, private wage work, non-wage work, unemployment and non-participation) for married and unmarried women of a given educational and age profile. Our results confirm that the decline in the probability of public sector employment for women with higher education is associated with either an increase in unemployment or a decline in participation.

Suggested Citation

  • Assaad, Ragui & Hendy, Rana & Lassassi, Moundir & Yassin, Shaimaa, 2018. "Explaining the MENA Paradox: Rising Educational Attainment, Yet Stagnant Female Labor Force Participation," IZA Discussion Papers 11385, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11385
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Rana Hendy, 2015. "A Quarter Century of Changes in Labor Force Participation," Working Papers 973, Economic Research Forum, revised Nov 2015.
    2. Assaad, Ragui & Krafft, Caroline & Selwaness, Irene, 2017. "The Impact of Early Marriage on Women’s Employment in the Middle East and North Africa," GLO Discussion Paper Series 66, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. Ragui Assaad, 2014. "Making sense of Arab labor markets: the enduring legacy of dualism," IZA Journal of Labor & Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-25, December.
    4. World Bank, 2004. "Gender and Development in the Middle East and North Africa : Women in the Public Sphere," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15036, September.
    5. Nadereh Chamlou & Silvia Muzi & Hanane Ahmed, 2011. "Understanding the Determinants of Female Labor Force Participation in the Middle East and North Africa Region: The Role of Education and Social Norms in Amman," Working Papers 31, AlmaLaurea Inter-University Consortium.
    6. repec:wbk:wbpubs:12550 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. World Bank, 2013. "Opening Doors : Gender Equality and Development in the Middle East and North Africa," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 12552, September.
    8. Hayo Bernd & Caris Tobias, 2013. "Female Labour Force Participation in the MENA Region: The Role of Identity," Review of Middle East Economics and Finance, De Gruyter, vol. 9(3), pages 271-292, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public employment; labor market; female labor force participation; sectoral choice; human capital; MENA;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J82 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Labor Force Composition

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