Special Features of Women’s Economic Participation in MENA

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  • Special Features of Womens Economic Participation in MENA

    Susan JoekesERF/IDRC Conference, Cairo,

    24-25 October 2015

  • An international perspective

    A descriptive account to set the scene. What do the international statistics show? (draft report, OECD MENA-OECD Investment Initiative).

    Will lay out key indicators, some well known others more surprising.

    Covers labour supply, employment and entrepreneurship; bias towards paid work; not care work or working conditions (informality, precariousness, wages). Not explanation.

  • General findings MENA has the lowest rates of any region of female labour force

    participation and, even more, so employment: 1 in 5 women only. A large pool of human capabilities (womens labour/skills/

    entrepreneurial potentials) is underutilised. Women themselves try to make up for lack of paid employment

    opportunity by becoming entrepreneurs, to a greater extent than men do.

    MENA has unusual patterns of 1) participation, peaked at 30yrs 2) employment by occupation (higher levels in top/tech/professional jobs and, notably, in the public sector).

    There is less information on gender demand than supply side issues, especially employment practices; statistical relation between employment and entrepreneurship is missing, as is detail on aspects of gender and entrepreneurship. For almost all measures, coverage of MENA countries is incomplete.

  • Womens labour force participation

    Rates; characteristics of women entering LF The labour force (i.e. employed, self-employed

    or seeking employment; paid or unpaid). LFP indicates interest in working on womens part

    MENA region has lowest FLFPR in the world, 1 in 4 adult women (Fig 1) - half low/middle income, OECD rates

    Big country variations within the region (Fig 2)

  • Fig 1: Male and female labour force participation rates, by region,2011


    MENA Average Latin America &Caribbean (allincome levels)

    Low & middleincome

    OECD members Sub-SaharanAfrica



  • Fig 2: Labour force participation by gender, MENA countries, mid 2000s












    Female (% population 15+)

    Male (% of population 15+)

  • Women entering the labour force Are increasingly well educated- as elsewhere, but more

    so; extent of change in MENA is remarkable. Tertiary education: in many countries, more F>M

    graduates among working age adults. Variations: Egypt and Morocco, lower, nearer parity in Lebanon, WBGS, Jordan; very high in Algeria, GCC (Qatar (400%) (world no 1, but small total enrollment).

    M>F study engineering, but not all sciences. Women with tertiary are twice+ as likely to participate

    as women with secondary education (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia)

    FLF mostly skewed towards younger ages (Fig 3a,3b)

  • Fig 3a: Female labour force participation by age, MENA (W, C)












    15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65+

    Algeria 2010

    Egypt 2010

    Lebanon 2007

    Morocco 2008

    Saudi Arabia 2009

    Syria 2007

    Tunisia 2010

    WBGS 2010

  • Fig 3b: Female labour force participation by age, MENA (E)










    15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65+

    Bahrain 2010

    Kuwait 2005

    Qatar 2009

    UAE 2009

  • Unemployment

    By age (15-24, 25 and over) and country (Fig 4) Youth unemployment a chronic problem

    throughout MENA; EU, US only since 2009 Gender differences: Morocco, Tunisia low/absent;

    Algeria, Egypt, Jordan very large differences Egypt and Morocco: F graduates experience

    lower unemployment r ate. In Morocco, graduates get lower wages (RRE 3rd< 2nd level).

    MENA women: only 1 in 5 is employed

  • Fig 4: Unemployment rates by age (all adults, youth) and gender, 2009

    0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% 30.0% 35.0% 40.0% 45.0% 50.0%


    Egypt, Arab Rep.














    Male unemployment, youth (ages 15-24)

    Female unemployment, youth (ages 15-24)

    Total male unemployment

    Total female unemployment

  • Employment Women as employees: from c. 2005 the share falls in all 8

    countries with data (Fig 5) Public sector: much higher share than private High share in professional and technical occupations

    similar share in public and private sectors. Structural shifts: in both Egypt and Morocco, rising in

    agriculture (to mid 2000s), falling in manufacturing, stable in services

    1980s -1990s gains from export oriented manufacturing (MO, TUN; later EG, JO), as elsewhere; associated with trade preferences, which did not lead to sustained competitiveness. But no similar development in services, despite its importance as economies evolve.

  • Fig 5: Female share of employees, percent, 1970-2010

    1970 1980 1990 Mid 1990s 2000 2005 2010

    Algeria 5 8 10 16.7* (2004) 15.1* (2010)

    Egypt 9 9 16 17.7 (1995) 21.4* (1999) 19.0 (2006) 19.6*


    Iraq - 8 11 20.3* (2006)

    Jordan - 9 10 11 (1993)

    Kuwait 8 14 21 32.3* 25.2*

    Morocco - 18 25 22 (1992) 25.9*, ** 27.0* 21.1

    Syria 10 9 15 17 (1991) 17.0* (2001) 13.4* 12.9*

    Tunisia 6 15 17 23 (1994) 24.6* 25.0*

  • Employment continued

    Demand side issues under-researched Marital (civil) status of F employees: fall off in

    FLFP suggests withdrawal from LF on marriage. In Morocco, the proportion of married women in formal organisations in the private sector is tiny; no other data.

    Leads into the next topic: entrepreneurship a form of employment, but also more. LF data not good, other sources.

  • Gender and entrepreneurship

    Women make up some ground in terms of economic engagement via entrepreneurship but not much; still relatively low rates

    MENA entrepreneurial activity: 12% women (TEA 8.5%, EB 3.6%), 31% men (TEA 18.5%, EB 13%).

    Two important gender gaps: more M than F in lasting ventures (i.e. ratio (m)EB:TEA 7:10, ratio (F) 4:10.

    Ratio FLFP to entrepreneurship is higher than for men Relative to the number in the LF, more women than men entrepreneurs (and most employ others, more so than in other regions). Figure 6

  • Fig 6: Gender gaps in employment and entrepreneurship, by sub-region

    MENA Western Central East

    Employment gap: ratio of male:female

    labour participation


    2.9:1 2.5:1 3.5:1 2.7:1

    Entrepreneurship gap: ratio

    of male:femaleentrepreneurial activity rates

    2.1:1 2.1:1 2.2:1 2.0:1

  • Gender and entrepreneurship (cont.) big country variations

    Maghreb (W) generally has higher entrepreneurship levels (M and F) (Fig 7)

    Morocco and Lebanon have highest general levels, especially of established businesses -

    as well as the highest rate of womens entrepreneurial activity

    notably low levels of EB operation among women in Jordan, WBGS, Syria, Yemen.

  • Fig 7: Variations in entrepreneurship, MENA countries, c 2009

    0 5 10 15 20 25 30








    Established business prevalence rate (M)

    TEA rate (M)

    Established business prevalence rate (F)

    TEA rate (F)

  • Characteristics of women entrepreneurs in MENA

    More educated than women overall, but less so than women participating in the labour force

    From lower income households than male entrepreneurs

    Trends: little known, but in Egypt recent huge shift in motivation and presence of women. Share of necessity driven from 1/5 (2008) to 3/4 (2010) of all and jump in womens share of early ventures, from 20% to 35%.

    Finally, worldwide job experience prepares for entship; MENA women entrepreneurs held back by concurrrentand prior employment experience.

  • Business

    No reliable data on F owned businesses (formal with 5+ employees) (source: WBES lax definitions) shows; gender characteristics of businesses unknown for same reason

    GEM EB data more interesting, giving information on size of entrepreneurial ventures by gender (Figure 8)

  • Fig 8: New and established business owners with no employees, by gender, 2012

    Per cent New Business Owners with noemployees

    Per cent Established Business Ownerswith no Employees

    Female Male Female Male

    Algeria 5 7 12* 6

    Egypt 2 7 0 4

    Palestine 28 34 51* 40

    Tunisia 42** 12 30* 19

    Sub Saharan Africa 40* 32 44* 30

    Latin America andCaribbean

    52* 38 50* 38

  • Thank you!

    Most of this material is from an OECD report, in draft, at: http://www.oecd.org/mena/investment/Statistical%20Portrait.pdf

    Special thanks to Ragui Assaad, Hala Hattaband Mona Said - though not implicated

    Comments, suggestions, more information and ideas please to Susan Joekes(joekessusan@gmail.com)


    Special Features of Womens Economic Participation in MENAAn international perspective General findingsWomens labour force participation Fig 1: Male and female labour force participation rates, by region,2011 Fig 2: Labou