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Work and Gender Equality in Developing Countries

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(Summary of Parallel Session 13 at the ABCDE, Paris)

Gender and employment are at the center of international discussions and, it important to note, the topic of the forthcoming 2011 Human Development Report.

Our first speaker, Rania Roushdy, investigated the crisis-related impact on the labor market outcomes and dynamics in one of Middle East countries, Egypt. She gave particular attention to investigating how women weathered the Egyptian labor market during the economic downturn. In addition to examining the trends in the major labor market aggregates—namely employment, unemployment and labor force participation—she also examined the patterns of informality and job creation and destruction over the period under consideration. The presentation provided new research evidence on the impact of the financial crisis on the female labor market outcomes and dynamics in Egypt. These results are expected to help in shaping country-specific policies to undermine the adverse effect of the crisis, as well as provide interesting policy recommendations regarding possible coping strategies to enhance the welfare of the most vulnerable groups of the population who have been hit hard during the crisis period.

As the second speaker in the session, I focused on investigating the effect of marriage on labor market transitions and employment choices. I revealed new evidence for Egyptian females that have important policy recommendations. Married women working in the private sector tend to have higher probabilities to move to inactivity than women in the public sector, which goes in line with expectations. In other words, marriage decreases the probability that women will continue working in the public sector by 18 percent and the probability that they will continue working in the private sector by almost the double that (30 percent).  This research calls for more efficient family-friendly policies in the private sector, particularly taking into consideration the double-burden issue for women.
Moving from Egypt to South Africa, the third speaker, Gaelle Ferrant, explored the peer effect on labor market participation in South Africa. Social interactions are investigated as a determinant of individual behavior in the labor market. The question she asked is whether being surrounded by active or employed peers influences the probability to both be active and employed, and how this affects wages. Indeed, the standard analysis of labor outcomes is not enough to explain the puzzling variations of labor market outcomes across individuals, gender, and ethnic groups. Reducing inequality in the labor market may lead to a reduction of overall inequality. This concerns three aspects of the peer effect field. First, the presentation distinguished individual peer effects according to the sex and the ethnic group. Second, Gaelle and her co-authors tested the non-linearity of the effect. Third, the authors explore peer effect on the labor market participation, the probability of finding a job, and the associated wage level. Results show that peer effects do indeed have an impact on market choice and outcomes, confirming that social interaction matter. This implies that a snowball effect occurs as a shock on the labor market that could be amplified by the network effect. This could have relevant consequences on policy recommendations.


Rana Hendy

Economist, Economic Research Forum

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