Are women in the MENA region really that different from women in Europe? Globalization, conservative values and female labor market participation
This article aims to compare women in the MENA region with women in Europe as to how globalization affects their conservative values and attitudes, and, thereby, their labor market participation. The authors define conservative values as both religious values and socio-political attitudes relating to family issues and leadership. Using micro data from the World Values Survey covering over 80 countries between 1981 and 2014, we employ three distinct indicators of globalization that reflect, first, international trade, and, second, cross-national flows of information via persons and media. In Western Europe, during the Cold War period economic globalization appears to weaken those conservative values that directly pertain to female labor market participation, mirroring the current development in the MENA countries. After the Cold War, in Western Europe all remaining secular-conservative values appear equally weakened by international trade, possibly predicting changes to come in the MENA region. Eastern Europe appears distinct from the other two regions. In the MENA region, women respond to intensifying economic globalization with deeper religiosity, possibly as a manifestation of self-protection. Global exchange of information, however, weakens all kinds of conservative values in general in either region. For both MENA countries and Europe likewise, women who are more conservative are less likely to participate in the labor market. Overall, this study suggests that economic globalization transforms not only the economy but also those conservative values that present an obstacle to gainful employment of women.
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