Economic Research Forum (ERF)

May

Selling hope without reward: youth unemployment in Egypt

Many young educated Egyptians face difficulties locating secure employment that matches their skill levels and provides a solid foundation for marriage. This column argues that current initiatives intended to tackle the problem are promoting a false sense of hope to youth who become stuck in cycles of precarious work. Policy-makers should instead focus on addressing chronic shortages of secure white-collar work, as well as inequalities in access to capital, education and social connections.

Prospects for a closely integrated Euro-Arab Mediterranean region

The Euro-Med partnership of over 40 countries aims for closer integration of the region, fostering the development and stability of the southern and eastern members, and narrowing economic and political gaps between North and South. This column explores its prospects, concluding that the rationale for a politically integrated Euro-Arab Med region does not seem to have been adequately thought out: it is a matter that deserves deep study.

Syrian refugees in Jordan: healthcare and food security

Ensuring the health and food security of the 1.3 million Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan is critical for protecting this vulnerable population now as well as securing their future. This column reports research showing that despite food assistance programmes, they face high rates of food insecurity. In addition, low rates of health insurance among refugees are likely to create barriers to healthcare, although refugees do ultimately access care when needed.

Syrian refugees in Jordan: educational enrolment and progress

School enrolment for Syrian refugees in Jordan has been disrupted due to conflict and displacement. This column reports that despite a policy of free basic and secondary education, there are substantial gaps in enrolment. While younger refugees face challenges entering school and progressing once enrolled, older refugees need support returning to education after disruptions in their schooling. Well-educated refugees will be better equipped to contribute to the economy and eventually rebuild their country.

How has Jordan been affected by the Syrian refugee influx?

Since 2011, Jordan has been buffeted by powerful external forces related to the political situation in neighbouring countries, not least the arrival of almost 1.3 million refugees from the conflict in Syria. This columns outlines research presented in Amman in May 2018 on the impact of the Syrian refugee influx on the employment, education, housing and demographic outcomes for Jordanians.

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.

Syrian refugees: limited participation in Jordan’s labour force

Syrian refugees in Jordan have been able to work legally with permits since 2016, yet their labour force participation remains very low. This column discusses why relatively few work permits have been used, potentially because of perceived downsides of the current system. The low employment rates and the low take-up of work permits are worrying trends for the wellbeing of refugees.

Are macroeconomic policies sustainable in the Euro-Med region?

Policy-makers in the European Union and its partners in the Southern Mediterranean have introduced austerity measures to limit further deteriorations in countries’ fiscal and macroeconomic positions. This column reports research on the issues of debt sustainability and the ‘twin deficit hypothesis’ – the idea that there is a strong link between the budget balance and the current account balance. Traditional macroeconomic policies seem largely ineffective for promoting sustainable growth and averting future financial crises.

Who are the Syrian refugees in Jordan?

The conflict in Syria has created millions of refugees, including almost 1.3 million Syrians living in Jordan. This column discusses the demographics of Syrian refugees in Jordan, who are predominantly young and living in host communities. Refugees face unique documentation challenges in accessing critical services, but recent reforms have improved access and should be expanded.

Most read

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.

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.

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.

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.