Economic Research Forum (ERF)


Jobs and growth in North Africa during Covid-19

At the onset of the pandemic, employment rates contracted sharply in North African countries. As the column explains, employment rates have generally recovered since then, but hours of work and incomes have not. Informal wage workers, farmers and the self-employed have faced a particularly hard struggle. In anticipation of future crises, the region requires a robust and shock-responsive social protection system.

The impact of Covid-19 on the labour market in Sudan

Even before the pandemic, Sudan was experiencing a severe crisis caused by economic and political instability – so it is difficult to disentangle the specific impacts of Covid-19. This column draws on survey evidence of how the country’s labour market has fared – and makes recommendations for policies to respond to the economic damage to households and firms.

The way forward for Egypt

As Egypt prepares to host the 27th Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in November, there may be an opportunity to restart the post-pandemic economic recovery. This column, first published by The NileView, is firmly optimistic about the country’s potential and prospects, with the author opening: ‘I am not an economist, but here is some food for thought on the way forward for Egypt.’

To escape the crisis, embark on a path of renewal

In the chaotic global post-Covid-19 economy, with the war in Ukraine, the challenge of adjusting to the stagflation engulfing the world is particularly hard for the oil-importing countries of the Middle East and North Africa. This column summarises the key messages of a report from the MENA Commission on Stabilization and Growth.

Economic resilience in Morocco during Covid-19

Policy responses to the severe pandemic-driven downturn in Morocco have sought to preserve jobs and businesses, and promote economic recovery. This column outlines the results of analysis assessing the effects of government actions during Covid-19 on economic variables, and raising questions about the design of future monetary and fiscal policies, and their interaction in an environment of high public debt.

Moving beyond the Arab uprisings

Despite the popular movements for freedom and justice in several Arab countries a little over a decade ago, the region continues to be classified at the bottom of the world table of democracy. Nevertheless, this column argues, the uprisings have rung in the changes of an inevitable and deep-seated political and economic transformation in the Arab region: a change in the social contract is in the making, though its path and inception time remain uncertain.

A tale of two Middle Easts

Higher oil prices, by softening budget constraints for energy producers in the Middle East and North Africa, may reduce the incentive for major economic reforms. But as this Project Syndicate column explains, the region’s oil importers, facing renewed risks to social and political stability from rising costs, must contend with much greater challenges.

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.