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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.