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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Egypt’s care economy needs to address deteriorating working conditions

A robust and high-quality care economy is critical for supporting women’s employment – as both an employer of women and a mechanism for redistributing unpaid care work to the market. Yet in Egypt, despite national goals of expanding care services, employment in the sector has been shrinking, while becoming increasingly privatised. As this column reports, care jobs have also experienced worsening conditions of work, including reduced formality and the emergence of a pay penalty for care workers.

Unemployment among young women in GCC countries

The average rate of unemployment among young women in the high-income countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is far higher than the equivalent for young men. This column reports new evidence on the extent to which flexible labour markets, in the context of a generous social contract, can reduce female youth unemployment rates in the region.

Boosting trade through flexible rules of origin in preferential agreements

Rules of origin are critical components of preferential trade agreements designed to stop products coming in under insufficient transformation or through the partner that applies the lowest tariff. But in practice, these rules are often needlessly complex, undoing the benefits of market access associated with trade agreements. This column reports research showing that the adoption of more flexible product-specific rules of origin within preferential agreements would give a significant boost to global trade.

Challenges of GCC investment in the energy transition

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have identified the energy transition as a crucial area of growth and are investing heavily in a diverse array of projects. However, as this column explains, the region faces a number of challenges in making a success of these investments, most notably its current dependence on fossil fuels, a lack of infrastructure and technical expertise, the high upfront costs, and geopolitical tensions.

The decline of social insurance in Egypt: directions for reform

The longstanding challenge for the Egyptian economy of providing its workers with decent, formal, socially insured jobs has become even more difficult. As this column explains, informality has been rising rather than falling, with a substantial reduction in social insurance coverage for the employed since the late 1990s. Reforms are needed to reverse this decline.

Social insurance in Egypt: between costly formality and legal informality

The rates of participation of Egyptian workers in contributory social insurance has continued to decline, even during times when the country has had positive annual growth rates. This column discusses key institutional elements in the design of the current social insurance scheme that have contributed to the growing gap in coverage, particularly the scheme’s cost and eligibility requirements.

Jordan: navigating through multiple crises

Jordan’s real GDP per capita is today no higher than it was 40 years ago. While external factors have undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the country’s economic outcomes, weak macroeconomic management and low public spending on investment and the social sectors have also played a substantial role. This column explores what can be done to reduce high public debt, accelerate private sector development and enhance social outcomes.

Making trade agreements more environmentally friendly in the MENA region

Trade policy can play a significant role in efforts to decarbonise the global economy. But as this column explains, there need to be more environmental provisions in trade agreements in which developing countries participate – and stronger legal enforcement of those provisions at the international level. The MENA region would benefit substantially from such changes.

Egypt and Iraq: amenities, environmental quality and taste for revolution

The Middle East and North Africa is a region marked by significant political turbulence. This column explores a novel dimension of these upheavals: the relationship between people’s satisfaction with, on one hand, the amenities to which they have access and the environmental quality they experience, and, on the other hand, their inclination towards revolutionary actions. The data come from the World Value Survey collected in 2018 in Egypt and Iraq.

Iran’s globalisation and Saudi Arabia’s defence budget

How might Saudi Arabia react to Iran's renewed participation in global trade and investment? This column explores whether the expanding economic globalisation of Iran, following the lifting of nuclear sanctions, could yield a peace dividend for Saudi Arabia, consequently dampening the Middle East arms competition. These issues have attracted increased attention in recent times, notably after a pivotal agreement between the two countries in March 2023, marking the resumption of their political ties after a seven-year conflict.