Education Attainment, Further Female Participation & Feminization of Labor Markets in Arab Countries

By Fatima-Zohra Filali Adib, Ahmed Driouchi and Amale Achehboune

Policy Brief:

The current paper analyzes the integrated supply chain starting from education enrollment and ending with labor markets with focus on drop-out rates in the context of Arab economies. It uses descriptive statistics and regression analysis aiming at linking education and access to labor markets for women in comparison with men while benchmarking with the economies of Eastern and Central Europe (ECE).

The attained results show that while Arab countries have an increasing trend in enrollment, they have a decreasing pattern in drop-out from school, for both genders at all education levels. Out-of-school rates for primary education for females have been decreasing from 15.3% to 13.8% in the past four years. As of 2011, there were 14.53% male out of school in comparison to 18.94% female in the Arab states. However, while the amount of decline of female out of school rate is nearly 4% over three years, the corresponding level for male is hardly 1%. This is in line with the findings of authors who acknowledged the decrease of the gender gap in  education in the Arab world. Out-of-school rates for males and females are now closer than this was the case few years ago. In tertiary institutions, the trend has been moving towards more schooling for women than for men. Reverse gender gap has started to show up in some countries. Therefore, at all levels, women are more present in schools and statistics show a significant decrease in the gap between genders.

Labor participation rates for females have been slightly decreasing in ECE in contrast with Arab countries. Running regressions using the square of the independent variables only shows quadratic relationships. Therefore, U-shaped type of association between labor market and education is present in some cases. A more accurate observation is that this relationship is mainly associated with females. In Morocco, the U-shaped trend was prevalent for males since the coefficient is both significant and negative. Just like for the simple linear regressions, the largest coefficients are associated with the UAE followed by Jordan.

Given the current economic situation of the Arab world, the feminization of the job market is progressing and is not a choice but a consequence of education. In order to develop the economies, Arab countries need to enhance the contribution of their human resources with the involvement of more women starting with enrollment and drop-out minimization. But as labor markets require skilled human resources, both public and private sectors in Arab economies increasingly need educated women. This is why education is gradually becoming the most important mean for the promotion of more females in accessing labor markets. In the present research, the average schooling years of Barro and Lee (2010) is used as a proxy for the educational level. The effect of its change on labor participation shows how feminization is induced by education. While education positively contributes to increasing labor participation for females in the Arab countries, it did not seem to be significant in the case of Central and Eastern European economies as more women are already in the job market.

Such trends have to be enhanced through enrolling more girls in education and creating more incentives to ensure the attainment of higher level of knowledge with the opening of labor markets to talents.


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