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Economic development and female labor participation in the Middle East and North Africa : a test of the u-shape hypothesis

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  • Verme, Paolo

Abstract

The Middle East and North Africa region is known for having low female labor market participation rates as compared with its level of economic development. A possible explanation is that these countries find themselves at the turning point of the U-shape hypothesis when countries transition from declining to rising female participation rates. This paper tests the U-shape hypothesis in countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It finds that the region has outperformed other world regions in terms of the main drivers of the U-shape hypothesis, including gross domestic product per capita, economic transformation away from the agricultural sector, female education, and fertility rates. These facts are consistent with nonparametric evidence that shows countries in the region are distributed over a U-shaped curve. However, parametric tests of the hypothesis point in a different direction. The region shows an inverted U-shape overall and great heterogeneity across countries and age cohorts that defies any law on the relation between gross domestic product and female participation rate. The explanation behind these findings may be economic and cultural. Jobless growth and the lack of growth in employment sectors such as manufacturing and services, which proved critical for female employment in other countries, weaken labor demand and strengthen the role of institutions that may discourage female participation, such as marriage, legislation, and gender norms.

Suggested Citation

  • Verme, Paolo, 2014. "Economic development and female labor participation in the Middle East and North Africa : a test of the u-shape hypothesis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6927, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6927
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Tsani, Stella & Paroussos, Leonidas & Fragiadakis, Costas & Charalambidis, Ioannis & Capros, Pantelis, 2013. "Female labour force participation and economic growth in the South Mediterranean countries," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(2), pages 323-328.
    7. Verme, Paolo & Barry, Abdoul Gadiry & Guennouni, Jamal, 2014. "Female labor participation in the Arab world : some evidence from panel data in Morocco," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7031, The World Bank.
    8. Ndiamé Diop & Daniela Marotta & Jaime de Melo, 2012. "Natural Resource Abundance, Growth, and Diversification in the Middle East and North Africa : The Effects of Natural Resources and the Role of Policies," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 11956, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Humaira Husain, 2016. "Economic Development, Women Empowerment and U Shaped Labour Force Function : Time Series Evidence for Bangladesh," Asian Economic and Financial Review, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 6(12), pages 719-728, December.
    2. Paolo Verme & Abdoul Gadiry Barry & Jamal Guennouni, 2016. "Female Labor Participation in the Arab World: Evidence from Panel Data in Morocco," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 30(3), pages 258-284, September.
    3. Rim Berahab & Zineb Bouba & Pierre-Richard Agénor, 2017. "Egalité de genre, politiques publiques et croissance économique au Maroc," Books & Reports, OCP Policy Center, number 13.
    4. Tausch, Arno & Heshmati, Almas, 2016. "Islamism and Gender Relations in the Muslim World as Reflected in Recent World Values Survey Data," IZA Discussion Papers 9672, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani & Sara Taghvatalab, 2017. "Education and the Allocation of Time of Married Women in Iran," Working Papers 1114, Economic Research Forum, revised 06 2003.
    6. Tausch, Arno, 2016. "Occidentalism, terrorism, and the Shari’a state: new multivariate perspectives on Islamism based on international survey data," MPRA Paper 69498, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. World Bank Group, 2015. "Morocco - Mind the Gap," World Bank Other Operational Studies 24004, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Population Policies; Regional Economic Development; Economic Theory&Research; Labor Policies; Labor Markets;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • 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

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