As many countries struggle to construct economic policy in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, a dynamic analysis of MENA labor markets is particularly important. The work carried out by the Economic Research Forum (ERF) based on the data from the labor market panel surveys for Egypt and Jordan adds substantial value to better understand the forces driving labor market dynamics, and identifying policy priorities.
The ERF with the cooperation of several national statistical agencies, is dedicating special attention to Labor Market Panel Surveys (LMPS). The LMPS are designed as panel surveys in the sense that any households and individuals who were interviewed during previous rounds (if any) are interviewed again. In 2013, ERF launched the Egyptian Labor Market Panel Survey , and now the Jordanian one is available. This panel design reflects the state-of-the-art in data collection methodology in the labor field.
Today in Amman Jordan, the ERF holds a seminar to discuss the ‘Jordanian and Egyptian Labor Markets in a New Era’ in celebration to the launch of the Jordanian Labor Market in the New Millennium Book published by the Oxford University Press. The seminar comparatively tackles cross-cutting issues in both the Jordanian and Egyptian Labor markets, including labor market structure and dynamics in the two countries, gender issues in the labor market, a comparison of job accession, separation and mobility, and a comparison of labor supply and the role of the youth.
The labor market Panel Survey has branched out to Jordan: Commonalities
Ragui Assad lead on the LMPS research projects, presents main commonalities and differences between the Egyptian and the Jordanian labor markets. He identifies the persistent high unemployment for both countries even in times of significant growth. Growth rates in Jordan are between 7-8% while employment seems unresponsive to those rates. It is an irony that unemployment is growing particularly fast among the highly educated as this is the group in the workforce that is growing very fast. The same applies to Egyptian case. In both countries, government seems to have a great reversal, they are actively hiring again. Assad argues that employment for both markets grew to become more flexible in terms of job entry.
The labor market has branched out to Jordan: Differences
Egypt seems to exhibit more mobility between informal and formal jobs than Jordan, where there seems to be a wall separating both sectors. Also self-employment plays a much more important role over time and over people’s life cycle in Egypt than in Jordan. However Jordan shows evidence to absorb new entrants mostly into formal private sector wage employment, albeit its increasingly risky nature. It is also worth highlighting that queuing for government jobs appears to payoff in Jordan but not anymore in Egypt.
Finally, the survey addresses the structural evolution of the Jordanian labor market and finds that jobs being generated by the economy are increasingly precarious with minimal non-wage benefits. At the same time the workforce is increasingly made up of university graduates with forward looking expectations that is unfortunately matched with low quality jobs, thus keeping unemployment rates high despite rapid economic growth.