Economic Research Forum (ERF)

April

New firms and economic geography in Turkey

The Turkish economy is characterised by considerable regional disparities, including big differences in the willingness of new firms to locate in different parts of the country. This column reports research evidence that there is also spatial variation in the factors that can boost local economic activity and contribute to a smoothing of economic geography across Turkey’s western and eastern regions.

Raising Egypt’s minimum wage: the impact on inequality

Since the majority of Egypt’s labour force is in the informal sector, where three quarters of workers earn less than the minimum wage, the recent increase will not benefit them. Indeed, as research reported in this column shows, it will lead to a rise in inequality. A better policy option would be to implement self-targeted public works programmes similar to those supported by India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which push up the informal sector’s ‘effective’ minimum wage, thereby reducing both wage inequality and some of the precarious nature of informal jobs.

Self-selection of emigrants by cultural traits: MENA evidence

What are the relationships between people’s cultural traits and their aspirations to emigrate? This column explores whether emigrants from countries in the Middle East and North Africa self-select on the basis of their religiosity and their attitudes towards women’s rights – two cultural traits that are correlated with economic outcomes and on which there are considerable contrasts within the MENA region.

Sustainability of GCC development under the new global oil order

It is now a widely held view that the price of oil will eventually be converging to a lower long-term trend. Together with growing demands for political change in the MENA region, this implies the need for many countries to reconsider their growth models and their underlying social contract. This column considers the implications for the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

MENA Generation 2030: Prospects for a demographic dividend

UNICEF’s new report, MENA Generation 2030, focuses on ‘investing in children and youth today to secure a prosperous region tomorrow’. This column discusses the prospects for a ‘demographic dividend’ in the region with the growing share of the working age population in the total population. The authors explore the barriers that impede realisation of the potential benefits and the policy actions that need to be implemented urgently. As the report underlines, the time to act is now.

Palestinians working in Israel: the impact on West Bank food security

Employment of Palestinians in Israel is one of the special features of the labour markets in the West Bank. But this employment is volatile as closures and regulations administered by the Israeli authorities control Palestinians’ access. This column reports research simulating different levels of the employment of Palestinian labour in Israel and assesses their implications for food security in the West Bank.

Exports and innovation in the MENA region: when skills matter

Firms that want to start exporting have to be able to innovate and upgrade their use of technology in the face of fierce competition in international markets. As this column explains, highly skilled production and non-production workers are essential. In other words, engaging in international trade creates the need for a bias towards skills.

Africa youth leadership: building local leaders to solve global challenges

Accountable leadership is one of the biggest challenges to development in Africa. This Brookings column argues that the young people of the continent need to take more places in presidencies, councils of ministers, parliaments, national committees, corporate boardrooms and civil society.

Recent financial and debt crises: is the MENA region immune?

How vulnerable is the MENA region to a ‘sudden stop’ in capital inflows and the potential for associated financial and debt crises? This column outlines the risks and the appropriate policy responses.

The economic and social transformation of the Middle East and North Africa

The crises that began with the Arab revolts signal the urgent need for economic and social transformation in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet there has been near universal failure to implement the structural reforms required to transform hidebound, state-dominated economies into modern ones that embrace technology and recognise the salutary impact of competition and private enterprise. This column outlines what has to change.

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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.

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.