Tag Archives: MENA region

FEMISE MED BRIEF no15 : « Is informality an irrevocable obstacle to Universal Health Coverage ? »

Mohammad Abu-Zaineh, Bruno Ventelou, Khaled Makhloufi

The FEMISE Policy Brief series MED BRIEF aspires to provide Forward Thinking for the EuroMediterranean region. The briefs contain succinct, policy-oriented analysis of relevant EuroMed issues, presenting the views of FEMISE researchers and collaborators to policy-makers.

 

The latest MED Brief on ” Is informality an irrevocable obstacle to Universal Health Coverage (UHC)? Evidence from Tunisia” is available here.

Summary In many developing countries and in particular in the context of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, large fractions of the population are deprived of access to any social security system, mainly because they are working in the informal sector. This paper shows that even among the most precarious workers, the willingness-to-pay for a health insurance system is substantial but varies according to the three different healthcare insurance plans proposed in the survey (giving access to public provider, to private providers, or reimbursement), associated or not with a pension scheme. This suggests that informality, by and in itself, is not an incurable impediment behind the achievement of the UHC goal in Tunisia as long as appropriate insurance plans are offered to the uncovered populations.

The list of FEMISE MED BRIEFS is available here.

The policy brief has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union within the context of the FEMISE program. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

Med Change Makers e05 : Katarzyna SIDLO, Women Empowerment and Collaborative Economy

 

FEMISE recently launched its series of interviews called « Med Change Makers ».

« Med Change Makers » are text and video-based interviews that allow dynamic researchers of the FEMISE network to illustrate how their research addresses a policy-relevant question and how it contributes to the policy-making process in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

 

Boosting female labour market participation rates in the MENA region : Can collaborative economy be of help? ”

Interview with Katarzyna Sidlo, Political Analyst at CASE, researcher at FEMISE

FEMISE recently published its Policy Brief “Boosting female labour market participation rates in the MENA region : Can collaborative economy be of help?”.

Autthor of the MED BRIEF, Dr. Katarzyna Sidlo is a FEMISE researcher who actively participates in the activities of the network. Her work assesses the potential of the collaborative economy to increase women’s labor force participation in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). More specifically, it examines ways in which the collaborative economy can enable women who are interested to join the labor market.

  1. How do you define collaborative economy? Can you give us examples from different sectors of such initiatives?

The collaborative (or sharing) economy refers to business models that create an open marketplace for access to goods and services thanks to the use of modern technology. It covers a variety of sectors, is rapidly emerging throughout the world and provides new opportunities for citizens who are able to get what they need from each other instead of going to large organizations (at least that is the theory). Some of the best-known examples of collaborative economy businesses are car-hailing applications such as Uber or Careem, peer-to-peer accommodation website Airbnb, crowdsourcing platforms Kickstarter or Indiegogo, or online marketplace Etsy. Many of them are already household names.

  1. Do you think that collaborative economy is a feasible solution in MENA countries given internet access obstacles and public perceptions?

Well, firstly according to the World Bank, 59% of individuals in the MENA region are internet users. Access to internet as such is therefore not a problem everywhere in the region, although of course in many places broadband is expensive, slow and generally unreliable and in many other, especially urban areas, simply not yet readily available. More importantly, however, I would look at the problem stated in the question in a different way: the potential to make use of what collaborative economy has to offer can be one more argument in favour of extending efforts to provide access to internet to as many people as possible. If internet is not available in a village in the south of Egypt, chances are that neither are many job offers. By providing inhabitants of such a village with access to internet, you give them an opportunity to enter the labour market as well. For instance, they could study for free on one of the many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platforms available – increasingly also in Arabic – and gain skills that will allow them to find employment. Or they could give Arabic classes online (one platform, NaTakallam, offers such classes taught by refugees). All without having to emigrate and leave their villages or, indeed, houses.

I strongly believe that even if just a small percentage of people in a given society use this chance, it will be worth it. So while the sharing economy will by no means solve all or even most of the problems related to the low female (and male) labour force participation – it would not even if virtually every single person in the region had access to a fast, affordable, and reliable internet – it has a huge potential to contribute to the alleviation of this problem.

  1. What are the main obstacles for female labour force participation in the MENA region and how does collaborative economy bring innovative solutions to each?

Women in the MENA region wishing to join the labour market face numerous obstacles, from practical ones (lack of jobs, difficult commutes) to those of socio-cultural nature (restrictions on outside-of-the-house activities, caring responsibilities) nature. Sharing economy can help to overcome a number of those. Most importantly, it allows women to perform work – and indeed create their own businesses – from the comfort of their own homes. Thanks to this even those women, who due to various family- or culture-related reasons would not undertake paid work outside of the house, can earn their own income (and economic empowerment is a great step towards social and political empowerment). Another good example are ride-hailing services, providing a safer, more reliable and cheaper (compared to traditional taxis) alternative to faulty or point-blank non-existent public transport, oftentimes believed to be not appropriate for use by non-accompanied women. An extreme case in point was Saudi Arabia, where prior to lifting the ban on women driving 80% of Uber’s and 70% of Careem’s clients were female.

  1. One of the article’s recommendations was to improve the legal frameworks in each MENA country to enable the optimal functioning of sharing-economy businesses. What concrete measures can be successfully implemented in the region as a whole and in case-specific contexts?

One of the main advantages of the sharing economy is its flexibility. However, this flexibility can also oftentimes mean lack of clarity for instance in terms of liability, taxation, consumer protection, licensing or insurance. Think about ride hailing services such as Uber, Careem or Lyft: in case of an accident, whose insurance should cover the damages? As drivers are using their private vehicles they may not possess commercial, but rather personal insurance, which can lead to insurers denying the claim. Should the company owning the platform through which drivers are matched with clients be liable at all? Are the drivers even their employees or clients making use of the platforms features? The answer to that question determines answers to many subsequent ones related to social protection (maternity leaves, pensions, health insurance etc.) of the collaborative service providers. Another issue is of course taxation.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. The European Union is for instance pondering issuing EU level guidelines but currently whether and to what extent the sharing economy should be regulated is still a matter of a lively debate. The big question is of course how to regulate so that you don’t overregulate and therefore kill the flexibility that makes participating in sharing economy so convenient.

In the MENA region, countries should think about solutions that work best under their specific circumstances. For instance, a voluntary health insurance scheme could be introduced to help those earning their income within the sharing economy to gain social protection (an interesting study on this topic for Tunisia by Khaled Makhloufi, Mohammad Abu-Zaineh, and Bruno Ventelou has been published recently by FEMISE). In Jordan, where the government is working on a tax reform, the question of imposing corporate law tax on collaborative platforms could be investigated.

  1. What is the role you see for the civil society and NGOs in the proliferation of collaborative economy? Would cooperation and synergies between different actors/ stakeholders possible in your opinion?

Collaborative economy has it for-profit and non-profit dimension. Speaking of increasing female labour market participation in the MENA region and the role of CSOs and NGOs, we should probably focus on the latter. The spectrum of possibilities is really broad. Both types of organizations could for instance facilitate women organizing their own car pooling schemes, helping each other to safely and conveniently get to and from work on daily basis. They could set up collaborative working spaces, where female entrepreneurs could set up and run their businesses in a friendly, safe and inspiring environment. They could create online courses in local dialects of Arabic, providing free training to women thinking about starting their own business or work on translations into Arabic of courses which are already available on various MOOC platforms and which provide knowledge and skills that make finding a job easier. All that – and much more – can of course be done in collaboration between different stakeholders. After all that is what collaborative economy is all about.

The MED BRIEF is available for download by clicking here.

Interview by Constantin Tsakas

This activity received financial support from the European Union through the FEMISE project on “Support to Economic Research, studies and dialogues of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership”. Any views expressed are the sole responsibility of the speakers.

FEMISE MED BRIEF no10 : “Are Females good Managers in MENA Countries?”

 

The FEMISE Policy Brief series MED BRIEF aspires to provide Forward Thinking for the EuroMediterranean region. The briefs contain succinct, policy-oriented analysis of relevant EuroMed issues, presenting the views of FEMISE researchers and collaborators to policy-makers.

The tenth issue of MED BRIEF “Are Females good Managers in MENA Countries?” is available by clicking here.

Inmaculada Martínez-Zarzoso (University Jaume I, University of Goettingen and FEMISE)

This policy brief tries to answer the important question of whether firms gain from women participation in management positions. The debate on academic and policy levels have not reached a consensus regarding the existence of gender gaps in firm performance. This policy brief attempts to clarify some of the misconceptions associated with the idea that female managed firms perform worse than male managed firms, and identify what are the steps needed for increasing the participation of women in management positions.

 

The list of FEMISE MED BRIEFS is available here.

The policy brief has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union within the context of the FEMISE program. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

Do emigrants self-select along cultural traits?: Evidence from the MENA countries

Migrants’ selection by cultural traits, beliefs and practices has been largely understudied in the existing literature. In an attempt to fill this gap, this paper investigates whether migration aspirations, concrete plans to emigrate, and preferred destination choices are influenced by cultural traits in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA). We use the Gallup World Poll (GWP) surveys, which document migration aspirations, cultural traits and many other characteristics of individuals. We limit our sample to 17 MENA countries where Gallup conducted at least one wave of its survey between the years 2007 and 2016.

To begin with, we show that migration aspirations are correlated with actual migration flows obtained from the OECD International Migration Database. This suggests that the patterns of migration aspirations are likely to be similar to the patterns of actual migration. The average share of aspiring migrants in our sample is around 24%. Syria exhibits the largest share with over 35%; Jordan and Algeria come next at about 30%; Niger, Azerbaijan and Chad exhibit the smallest shares at about 20%. Through cultural proximity and network effects, former colonial ties are still affecting the preferred destinations of aspiring migrants. On average, 52.3% of the aspiring migrants from the MENA would like to move to an OECD destination country. This share amounts to 90% in Morocco and Algeria, while it is around 10% in Yemen and Niger.

We conduct a two-stage Principal Component Analysis on a set of 12 opinion questions to identify four synthetic indicators of cultural traits. We find that Lebanon and Azerbaijan are the most progressive in terms of gender-egalitarian attitudes. Iran and Azerbaijan are the less religious countries; on the contrary, sub-Saharan African countries (i.e., Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Niger) exhibit the highest levels of religiosity. Iran, Afghanistan and Syria exhibit the highest levels of generosity. Four countries that experienced turmoil and riots during the Arab Spring (i.e., Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen) hardly justify the use of violence. We refer to these countries and Syria as the Main Insurgents. In these countries, a large share of the population finds it unjustifiable to use any kind of violence against civilians.

In our empirical analysis, we only consider two cultural traits that are highly correlated with economic development indicators, namely gender-egalitarian attitudes and religiosity. We conduct a set of fixed-effect logit regressions for several subsamples to identify the effect of cultural traits on migration aspirations. The full sample estimates show that aspirations to all destinations are negatively affected by the level of religiosity but are not influenced by gender-egalitarian views. When we distinguish between emigration aspirations to OECD and non-OECD member states, the results reveal that cultural traits are not significant for migration aspirations to non-OECD countries. In contrast, aspirations to migrate to an OECD destination decrease with religiosity, and increase with gender-egalitarian views. In other words, aspiring migrants to OECD destinations exhibit lower levels of religiosity than those who do not intend to migrate. Next, we check whether similar selection patterns apply to individuals who have concrete migration plans for the next 12 months. We find that the effect of religiosity is highly significant and even larger than for migration aspirations; the effect of gender-egalitarian views is insignificant.

We then conduct a large set of robustness checks. First, we split the set of OECD destinations into three subsets that are frequently reported as preferred destinations in the data, namely the European Union, North America and Turkey. The results confirm that the effect of gender-egalitarian views remains insignificant or marginally significant for all sets of destinations, while the effect of religiosity is highly significant when considering OECD, high-income destinations, but not when considering Turkey. Second, we split the sample along education levels, and show that our results are valid for all skill groups. Third, we distinguish between three age categories, gender groups and marital status. Selection by religiosity is significant for all age groups and is greater for men, while positive selection on gender-egalitarian views becomes significant for single women and for all individuals aged 15 to 30. This is the age group in which aspiring migrants are the most likely to realize their migration aspirations. Fourth, we checked whether the intensity of cultural selection varies with aggregate country characteristics such as the shares of Sunnis and Shiites among the Muslim population, the log-GDP per capita, two indicators of institutional quality, and the size of the migrant network in the OECD countries. Our regressions reveal that aspiring migrants from countries with a Sunni minority have more progressive gender-egalitarian views, which also become significant when controlling for migration networks. Seventh, we explored whether the link between cultural traits and migration has been affected by the Arab Spring. We consider the full sample of MENA countries, the Main Insurgents and the other countries. In all specifications, selection by religiosity is always positive and significant. Although the Arab Spring has not affected the intensity of cultural selection in the less affected countries, it has drastically reduced it in the Main Insurgent countries.

Methodologically speaking, we also explore whether our results are driven by differences in the composition of the samples of aspiring migrants and non-migrants. We use the Mahalanobis Metric Matching technique to construct samples of aspiring migrants and non-migrants that are balanced in terms of observable covariates. All conclusions of the benchmark regressions hold when using the matched samples.

We thus conclude that migrants from MENA to OECD exhibit lower levels of religiosity. Moreover, young male or female migrants share significantly more gender-egalitarian views than the rest of the population. Overall, the Arab Spring has increased the relative religiosity of aspiring migrants in the most affected countries. Consequently, emigration to OECD countries has direct implications on the distribution of cultural traits in the population left behind and on the cultural distance at destination. Nevertheless, the effects of cultural selection should not be overestimated. First, emigration hardly affects the distribution of cultural traits in the MENA countries. Emigration towards OECD countries could even reverse the selection effect if migrants abroad transfer more progressive norms and beliefs to their home country. Second, it has a limited (albeit non negligible) effect on the cultural distance between natives and immigrants in the OECD countries.