Economic Research Forum (ERF)

March

Shaping Africa’s post-Covid recovery: a new eBook

While most African countries have been largely spared so far from the direct health effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, the continent’s economy has been significantly hurt by the economic consequences. This is particularly concerning given Africa’s high prevalence of extreme poverty. This column introduces a new eBook from CEPR Press, which focuses on business and household responses to the Covid-19 crisis in Africa, as well as access to international finance, patterns in international borrowing and country-specific experiences during the pandemic.

E-governance for sustainable development in MENA countries

Efforts to create digital government in the Middle East and North Africa are typically perceived as technical support activities and not as a core strategic component of public sector activities. As this column explains, the alternative would be that e-governance is value-driven instead of technology-driven: it should become an enabler of sustainable development.

Can preparedness for a health disaster change the game?

Disease outbreaks like Ebola and Covid-19 have strong detrimental effects on mortality rates for mothers, infants and young children in low and middle-income countries, both immediately and in the longer term. As this column explains, strengthening preparedness for such emergencies has become more urgent as health disasters continue to erode recent improvements in maternal and child health.

Trade openness and global value chains: effects on Turkish industries

Production processes and distribution systems have become increasingly fragmented across countries since the 1990s. Many large economies have benefitted from this phenomenon of ‘global value chains’, but as this column explains, the story may be different for developing countries. Empirical evidence from Turkey reveals positive productivity and growth effects of linkages, but damaging effects of backward participation on industries.

Income inequality convergence across Egyptian governorates

Although the aggregate level of income inequality in Egypt seems to be relatively low and stable, the figures are likely to mask large inequalities at the regional level. This column summarises new evidence on differences in income inequality across governorates, the extent to which those differences are narrowing and the effects on different parts of the income distribution.

The impact of Covid-19 on labour markets: evidence from Morocco and Tunisia

How is the Covid-19 crisis affecting jobs and business in the MENA region? This column reports evidence from mobile phone surveys carried out in November in Morocco and Tunisia. The results, reported in a new ERF Policy Brief, indicate that vulnerable workers, small entrepreneurs and farmers have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

Recognising and redistributing unpaid care work in Egypt

Countries like Egypt with significant gender imbalances in unpaid work typically have low female labour force participation. As this column reports, unpaid domestic care responsibilities fall primarily on women, hindering their ability to participate in the country’s paid economy. It is essential to nurture changes in policies and social norms that recognise and redistribute unpaid care work and reward paid care work.

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.