Economic Research Forum (ERF)

​Nelly Elmallakh

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​Nelly Elmallakh
Economist, World Bank's Office of the Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa

Nelly Elmallakh is an Economist in the Office of the Chief Economist of the World Bank's Middle East and North Africa Region. She joined the World Bank in 2020 as part of the World Bank’s Young Fellowship Program on Forced Displacement. Prior to joining the World Bank, Nelly was a post-doctoral researcher at the Paris School of Economics for two years and at the University of Strasbourg for one year. She is an accredited Assistant Professor of Economics in France and Italy and was appointed Assistant Professor of Economics at Cairo University from 2013 to 2020. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics and a Master's in Development Economics, both from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her research has been published in Demography, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Economic Development and Cultural Change, World Development, Journal of Population Economics, Journal of Comparative Economics, LABOUR, and Oxford University Press. Her work received grants from the United Kingdom's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the British Academy, the Agence Nationale de la Recherche, the Agence Française de Développement, the Fondation pour les Etudes et Recherches sur le Développement International, and the Economic Research Forum.

Content by this Author

Balancing act: jobs and wages in MENA when crises hit

What has been the human toll of the dizzying sequence of global macroeconomic shocks since 2020 for the Middle East and North Africa in terms of lost jobs and deteriorating livelihoods? A recent World Bank report highlights the additional 5.1 million people who have become unemployed, and explores the potential for them to be permanently scarred by the experience. As this column explains, there is a critical trade-off in labour markets between jobs losses and falls in real incomes, neither of which is desirable. The authors advocate maintaining real wage flexibility and supporting the most vulnerable via targeted cash transfers.

Labour market transitions over the life cycle in Egypt across two decades

To assess the impact of Covid-19 on Egypt’s labour markets, it is useful to understand how they functioned prior to the shock. Drawing on two decades of data on labour market transitions, this column concludes that the hefty reliance of the country’s economy on public sector employment, in particular for women, the small size of the private formal sector, the large and increasing private informal sector, and the very low participation of women all make the Egyptian labour market less resilient in absorbing the negative effects of the pandemic.

Transparency, data gaps and labour market outcomes in MENA

Data on labour market outcomes in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa are often difficult to evaluate. As this column explains, official labour market statistics in the region are typically based on ambiguous definitions, which makes it impossible to replicate them using independent data sources. Moreover, precise definitions are particularly relevant to assess women’s engagement in the labour market and the role of women in the societies of the region.

Has international migration reduced internal migration in Egypt?

Urbanisation is key for economic development, yet Egypt has been lagging behind most other North African countries in this respect in recent decades. This column reports that the country’s lack of urbanisation is partly explained by very low internal migration rates, which in turn seem to have been dampened by high rates of international migration by Egyptians.

Undocumented migration: Egyptian evidence of a long-term wage penalty

Does the legal status of temporary migrants have an impact on their earnings potential when they return to their home countries? This column reports research on Egyptians who have worked as undocumented labourers, often in Gulf countries. The results indicate that undocumented migrants experience a wage penalty compared with documented migrants on returning to Egypt.

Brain gain from return migration: evidence from Egypt

Far from causing ‘brain drain’ in the developing world, temporary migration can lead to a ‘brain gain’ for the sending countries. This column reports research on Egypt showing that migrants acquire significant human capital while they are overseas, which increases their probability of upward occupational mobility when they return home. This provides a potential source of economic growth for their country of origin.

Did the Egyptian protests lead to change?

Egypt’s period of euphoria following the toppling of Mubarak in 2011 was followed by the sobering realities of the political transition process. This column reports research showing how a wave of dissatisfaction overtook the popular mood, providing support for the conservative backlash in the presidential elections of 2012.

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Sustaining entrepreneurship: lessons from Iran

Does entrepreneurial activity naturally return to long-term average levels after big economic disturbances? This column presents new evidence from Iran on trends in entrepreneurship among various categories of firm size, sector and location – and suggests policies that could be effective in promoting entrepreneurial activities.

Happiness in the Arab world: should we be concerned?

Several Arab countries have low rankings in the latest comparative assessment of average happiness across the world. But as this column explains, the average is not a reliable summary statistic when applied to ordinal data. The evidence from more robust analysis of socio-economic inequality in happiness suggests that policy-makers should be less concerned about happiness indicators than the core development objective of more equitable social conditions for citizens.

Financial constraints on small firms’ growth: pandemic lessons from Iran

How does access to finance affect the growth of small businesses? This column presents new evidence from Iran before and during the Covid-19 pandemic – and lessons learned by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

The economics of Israeli war aims and strategies

Israel’s response to last October’s Hamas attack has led to widespread death and destruction. This column outlines the impact thus far, including the effects on food scarcity, migration and the Palestinian economy in both Gaza and the West Bank.

It’s too early to tell what happened to the Arab Spring

Did the Arab Spring fail? This column presents a view the consensus view from ERF’s recent annual conference in Morocco: careful analysis of the fundamental drivers of democratic transitions suggests that it’s too early to tell.

Arab regional cooperation in a fragmenting world

As globalisation stalls, regionalisation has emerged as an alternative. This column argues that Arab countries need to face the new realities and move decisively towards greater mutual cooperation. A regional integration agenda that also supports domestic reforms could be an important source of growth, jobs and stability.

Gender differences in business record-keeping and planning in Iraq

Only one in every ten informal businesses in Iraq is led by a woman. Yet as research summarised in this column reveals, those businesses are more likely to set budgets and sales targets, and to keep business records. This may be evidence of the role of social exclusion in motivating greater reliance on the formal bureaucratic system.

Self-employment in MENA: the role of religiosity and personal values

How important are individual’s values and beliefs in influencing the likelihood that they will embrace the responsibilities, risks and entrepreneurial challenge of self-employment? This column presents evidence from 12 countries in the Middle East and North African region on the roles of people’s religiosity and sense of personal agency in their labour market choices.

Reformed foreign ownership rules in UAE: the impact on business entry

In an effort to stimulate economic growth and diversify the economy, the government of the United Arab Emirates has recently implemented regulatory reform that allows 100% foreign ownership of companies operating in the country. This column examines the implications of the reform for entry of new firms in Dubai, using unique data on new business licences in the emirate.

Conflict and debt in the Middle East and North Africa

With the global economy is in its third year of deceleration amid declining inflation and oil prices, the Middle East and North Africa grew by just 1.9% in 2023, with a forecast for growth in 2024 at 2.7%. In addition to heightened uncertainty brought on by the conflict centred in Gaza, many countries in the region are also grappling with pre-existing vulnerabilities, including rising debt levels. This column summarises a new report that unpacks the nature of debt in MENA – and explains the critical importance of keeping rising debt stocks in check.