ERF to Hold Workshops on Education, Labor Market Dynamics and the Use of Labor Market Panel Survey Data in MENA

The Economic Research Forum (ERF) is organizing three workshops on “Education in the ERF Region,” “Labor Market Dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa,” and “The Use of Labor Market Panel Survey Data” from July 26-28, 2015, at ERF’s premises in Cairo.

During the workshops, participants will discuss the first drafts of a number of papers covering various topics related to incentives to learn in MENA, spending on education, returns to education, student achievements and the role of socioeconomic backgrounds, labor market dynamics, dynamics of informalization and household enterprises, migration and data collection methods, migration and labor market performance, labor mobility and employment outcomes, female participation and family dynamics, and inequality of opportunity in MENA.

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The Egyptian Labor Market: Both Cause and Casualty of the 2011 Revolution

This blog is written by Ragui Assaad

Assad_hbThe Egyptian labor market has been both a driving force behind the January 25 Revolution and one of its major casualties. Although the revolution was about lofty ideals, such as dignity and liberty, it was also partially caused by the anger and frustration of increasingly educated but often jobless young people. The economic crisis and dramatic slowdown following the revolution adversely affected the labor market, but the impact was not necessarily felt in terms of increases in open unemployment, but rather in a sharp increase in underemployment – a phenomenon that is most likely to affect the most vulnerable of workers, namely irregular wageworkers and the self-employed. Some workers, such as public sector workers, actually benefited from the revolution, as politicians responded to popular anger by raising their wages and improving their conditions of employment.

Why were the young people so angry?

There was widespread feeling among young people that the Mubarak regime was failing to uphold its part of the social contract that had been the basis of state-society relations in Egypt since Nasser’s time. The terms of this implicit contract, which is often referred to in the political science literature as the ‘authoritarian bargain,’ are that the government guarantees a place in the middle class for those who achieve a minimum level of education (usually upper secondary schooling) by providing them with secure, lifetime jobs in the public sector and with access to subsidized goods and services. In return, the population agrees to a highly restrictive form of political participation and refrains from questioning the State’s authoritarian practices. Continue reading

How “Private” are MENA Capital Markets?

This blog is written by Alissa Amico (Program Manager, MENA, Corporate Affairs Division, OECD).

Most stock exchanges in the Middle East, with the exception of the Palestine Stock Exchange, the Dubai Financial Market and a few broker-owned markets in North Africa are – unlike their largest global peers – state owned. While some exchanges in the Middle East have explored privatization or ownership restructuring, only the Kuwait Stock Exchange has moved in this direction. It is debatable whether and under what conditions other exchanges in the region will follow and if the timing is right, with the impending opening of Tadawul to foreign investors and the intense competition among financial centers in the region.

Even less known than the ownership model of exchanges, is the type of investors who dominate markets in the region. While the dependence of MENA markets on retail investors is no secret, less is known about the behavior and profile of institutional investors. And this is crucial as exchanges seek to attract foreign capital flows and encourage long-term investment. Institutional investors in the region are quite different in profile from developed or even other emerging markets, which are dominated by investment and pension funds and insurance companies.

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ERF Holds Workshop on the Political Economy of the Private Sector in the Middle East

The Economic Research Forum is organizing a workshop on “The Political Economy of the Private Sector in the Middle East,” June 5-6, 2015, in Oxford, UK. The workshop, being held in collaboration with the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, will discuss the first drafts of a number of papers covering various topics related to cronyism in the banking sector and capital markets, corruption in the job market, firm ownership, rules versus deals and public private partnerships, among others.

The event comes in the context of the MENA region’s suffering from a fragile private sector that is weakly connected with global markets and thrives largely under state patronage. Although extensive state-business interactions can form the basis for dynamic capitalism, they can also  become sources of insider influence, corruption and other forms of rent-seeking that distort politics, regulation, judicial functioning and business incentives. In MENA, the system of de facto privileges and restrictions has created a corporate pyramid composed of a small number of connected firms at the top, where competition is muted, and a large base of small firms at the bottom. Continue reading

Economic Research Forum Holds Training Workshop on ‘Measurements and Analysis of Opinion Poll Data’

This blog is written by Ahmed Goher (Economic Research Forum)

The Economic Research Forum held a three-day training workshop, from May 10-12 at its headquarters in Cairo, on the use of opinion poll data to link norm changes to underlying circumstances, such as family background, ethnicity, gender, generation and place of origin.Poll Data Workshop

More specifically, workshop participants focused on the use of the World Values Survey data sets from the 6th wave, covering 13 MENA countries. Lectures featured Bi Puranen (World Values Survey), Eduard Ponarin (World Values Survey), Irina Vartanova (Saint-Petersburg Higher School of Economics), Ishac Diwan (Paris Dauphine University) and Mohamed Al-Ississ (American University in Cairo) and explored econometric methods with a select review of the economic, political science, and sociological literature that use opinion polls to test theories empirically.
The workshop also covered techniques that include factor and cluster analysis, linear or logistic regression analysis, and structural equation modeling. Participants were also introduced to various types of graphical analysis.

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This blog is edited by Ahmed Goher (Economic Research Forum)

The Economic Research Forum (ERF) announced that is inviting proposals for papers to be presented in ERF’s 22nd Annual Conference, which will be held in Cairo, Egypt, March, 2016. Authors who wish to submit proposals, should be engaged in research on the ERF region (the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey), regardless of their affiliation to ERF. Previously published papers or those accepted for publication may not be submitted. The deadline for submitting proposals is June 15, 2015.

The authors of accepted papers (one author per paper) will be invited to present and take part in the deliberations of the conference at ERF’s expense. If the paper is accepted for publication in a refereed journal within two years of the conference, the author(s) will receive an honorarium of $1,000. In addition, the refereeing committees will select six papers—one per each of the six parallel session themes—for the Best Paper Award. Winning papers are evaluated on the basis of their contribution to knowledge, rigor and policy relevance. The Awards will be announced at the Closing Plenary of the conference and each winning paper will receive an extra $1,000. Finally, the editors of ERF’s Middle East Development Journal (MEDJ) will select worthy papers for possible inclusion in the journal, following the journal’s refereeing process.

The 22nd Annual Conference provides a unique opportunity for regional researchers to interact with international peers and with each another. It also provides a venue for the presentation of multiple research papers, both in the plenary and parallel sessions, with stimulating discussions and feedback. In addition, the conference features special events, the presentation of selected research projects and celebrates excellence in research.

The theme of the plenary sessions this year is A Post Arab Awakening Development Agenda. The themes of the parallel sessions are always varied enough to accommodate diverse research interests. Submissions for presentations in the parallel sessions may be made under the following areas:

1. Macroeconomics
2. Finance
3. International Economics
4. Labor and Human Development
5. Microeconomic and Sectoral studies
6. Institutional Economics/Governance

To read more about the timetable and guidelines for proposals»

Navigating the Transitions to Democracy

This post is written by Ahmed Goher (Economic Research Forum)

The Economic Research Forum (ERF) brought together speakers Eva Bellin (Brandeis University), Erik Berglof (London School of Economics) and Larry Diamond (Stanford University) on the third and final day of its 21st Annual Conference to explore how MENA countries can best manage their transitions to democracy.

Bellin began the session, chaired by Bassma Kodmani (Arab Reform Initiative), by presenting on ‘Lessons for Democratic Transition in the Arab World.’ The core argument of Bellin’s presentation was that established findings in the literature that economic development better sustains democracy, that neighborhood democratization has a high chance of leading to transition, anHB__8914d that a professionalized military apparatus is more likely to ensure a smooth transition to democracy; none of these findings are actually deterministic. In this sense, per Bellin, identifying lessons of what has worked elsewhere will not provide a definitive roadmap for Arab countries’ successful transition to democracy. For instance, the idea that higher GDP is more conducive to democracy is not a set rule, since half of the poorest countries in the world are democracies, Bellin argues, adding that some authoritarian regimes can have high levels of economic development as happened in the cases of Chile and Argentina.

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