What women want?

Egypt is and remains to be a traditional society with biased gender allocation of time within the household: Men specialize in market work while most; if not all; of the family responsibilities continues to be women’s responsibilities. Nevertheless, women labor force participation is a mandatory factor for economic development. Despite the remarkable increase in women’s educational rates, sometimes more than their male counterparts, participation in the labor market remains relatively low. Are the reasons resulting to this conclusion associated mostly with women themselves? Factors like marriage, fertility, reservation wages, or women’s own preferences have a say. Or are reasons tend to be driven more by the demand side of the market, factors such as discrimination or shrinking public sector? Given the notable participation of women in the Egyptian revolution and the economic scene, ERF commissioned the paper ‘Women’s Participation in Egypt over a Decade: Empirical Evidence Using Post-Revolution Panel Data’ by Rana Hendy to study how women’s participation in labor markets has affected their economic situation from 1998 up to 2012.

Women work less not only in the market but also at home.
The paper provides further analysis of the Egypt Labor Market Panel Survey (ELMPS) survey results, where findings (presented by Hoda El Enbaby in video above on behalf of Rana Hendy) indicate that women’s participation in labor market has been low in both market and home activities. Surprisingly, women have been spending less time on work, caring activities, household work, and spending more time in leisure! However, women tend to favorite public sector jobs because they provide less working hours and better practice of family friendly policies.

What comes as a surprise is that in a climate of declining job opportunities, where work in the public sector has become fewer, the study finds that women tend to revert to unpaid work, informal work or no work at all rather than private sector jobs due to its flexibility. Author also looks at how marriage affects women employment? It turns out that women’s unemployment decisions are all taken at marriage and that marriage is the main cause for low participation in the Egyptian labor markets. Finally, the author argues that unpaid work is the only type of work that increased for women. Women work less not only in the market but also at home.

Policy recommendations
Hendy, expects that the results of this study to be of importance to policymakers and non-governmental organizations, especially when designing family policies. She identifies that Egypt needs many regulation reforms in order to increase women participation rates. And that policies that support women’s access to productive employment, with equal wages for equal jobs, taking into full consideration the family burden for women, are strongly need to be drawn.

Hendy suggests that the private sector needs to revise its policies to be more flexible and accommodate for part-time and/or work from home arrangements, in order not to miss out on a portion of educated women, that are not part of the labor force as we currently speak.

On a more foundational note, Hendy suggests that an equitable division of labor within families could contribute to higher participation rates for women. But, changing these may take years if not decades!

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