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Gendered Approaches to Family, Labor Markets and Migration in the MENA Region

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM (CST)

New Orleans Marriott, Preservation Hall Studio 1
Hosted By: Middle East Economic Association & International Association for Feminist Economics
  • Chair: Amira El-Shal, Cairo University

Divorce in Turkey: Determinants of Rising Union Instability

Yasemin Dildar
California State University-San Bernardino


This paper analyzes the determinants of rise in marriage dissolution in Turkey. Divorce rate began rising much later than advanced countries in Turkey, but it showed a notable increase during the past decades. Crude divorce rate (CDR) increased from 0.27 in 1970 to 2.1 in 2021. This increase can be attributed to significant demographic changes including increase in marriage age, lower fertility, higher education, and changing gender norms. Moreover, two legislative developments played an important role by expanding women rights: 1988 no-default divorce law and the 2001 amendments of the Turkish Civil Code. This paper identifies micro determinants of probability of divorce using five waves of Turkish Demographic and Health Surveys (1998, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018). In addition to commonly studied predictors of divorce (individual and union characteristics), the role of women’s gender role attitudes, their tolerance of domestic violence and husbands’ controlling behavior are included in the analysis. The findings provide evidence for the masculinist restoration thesis as opposed to the second demographic transition and gender revolution theories. It is argued that the increase in divorce rates can be understood in the context of rising pressures from the politics of masculinist restoration on one hand, and women’s resistance to conform to the traditional gender roles on the other.

Keywords: Divorce, gender norms, masculinist restoration, Turkey

JEL Classifications Codes: J12, B54, Z13

Pre- and Post-Migration Labour Market Integration of Women from Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Countries: Canadian Evidence

Fariba Solati
St. Thomas University
Murshed Chowdhury
University of New Brunswick
Fabiana Rosado
University of New Brunswick


Despite having some of the highest rates of educated females in the developing world, countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have the lowest female labour force participation rates (FLFPR) in the world. Studies show that the main reason for these low FLFPRs is patriarchal culture, which influences the supply of and demand for females’ paid work. In this study, we examine whether the FLFPR of immigrants from MENA countries changes after their migration to Canada. We use a (unique) merged dataset of the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada (LSIC) and the Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB). The LSIC explores various socio-economic indicators of the immigrant cohort that arrived in Canada in 2001, and the IMDB traces relevant information of the same group of immigrants until 2016. We use both the descriptive statistics and binary choice models to observe the trends and patterns of female immigrants from MENA and other regions since their arrival in Canada. We also
include the Gender Inequality Index (GII) as a proxy to control for the gender inequality of immigrants across countries in the MENA region. The study finds that post-migration to Canada, female immigrants from MENA countries have a higher rate of labour force participation compared to their pre-migration rate. However, they still have the lowest participation rate of female immigrants in Canada. An increase in participation rate continues as these immigrants from MENA stay longer in Canada. Furthermore, the study reports that the region of origin is a significant predictor of female immigrants’ participation in the Canadian labour force. Our use of GII and other proxies confirms the existing claim that patriarchal gender roles survive for MENA women even after a few years of living in Canada, resulting in relatively low labour force participation.

Preferences Towards Women’s Employment in the MENA Region

Mahdi Majbouri
Babson College


Women in the Middle East have had significant achievements in the last four decades. Their educational attainment had continuously increased while their fertility rate declined. Nevertheless, their labor force participation has remained stubbornly low. This phenomenon is known as the puzzle of female labor force participation (FLFP) in the Middle East. In this study, I provide evidence on one of the most important but least studied hypotheses to explain this puzzle: the role of preferences in the household. Using discrete choice experiments, I solicit preferences of women and men toward three aspects of jobs: 1) full-time vs. part-time, 2) government sector vs. private sector, and 3) being in an all-female vs. mixed-gender work environment. I document that men, who have veto power over women’s decision to work, are willing to pay a 50% wage penalty if a job is in an all-female environment vs. a mixed-gender environment. They are willing to pay a 25% wage penalty if a job is full-time vs. part-time. But they are indifferent between a government sector or private sector job. Men also accurately predict what other men’s preferences are toward these job attributes. Women strongly prefer full-time jobs and are willing to pay a 40% wage penalty for that. Unlike men, they slightly prefer mixed-gender environments over all-female environments. They are also indifferent between government sector vs. private sector jobs. They also underestimate how much their husbands prefer all-female work environments over mixed-gender ones and overestimate how much their husbands like government sector jobs. The results show that because Egyptian men have veto power over women’s decision to work and they strongly prefer all-female work environments, women will have very limited jobs to choose from, such as teaching in primary and middle schools. This can be an insight to the puzzle of FLFP.

Feminization of Poverty in the Arab Region

Shireen Alazzawi
Santa Clara University
Vladimir Hlasny
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia


We will use both static and dynamic analyses to study the feminization of poverty in the Arab region. The static analysis will require the usual calculation of the P_? class of poverty measures using recent cross-sectional household budget surveys for Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia, differentiating between female and male headed households. This will require carefully updating the existing poverty lines from National Statistical offices, given the high, and geographically varying inflation rates over this period. Each of the P_? measures provide an important dimension into poverty’s state and structure, and calculating the difference between these measures for FHHs and MHHS over time will provide insight into whether there is feminization of poverty in the Arab region, and how it has been changing over time. Furthermore, we will use the methodology in AlAzzawi (2018) to control for personal characteristics (endowments) and the return to these characteristics that each group faces. This allows us to determine the portion of the difference in poverty rates that is explained by observable characteristics (the endowment effect) and that which is not (the discrimination effect), similar to the Oaxaca (1973) and Blinder (1973) methodology that is common in the gender discrimination literature.
JEL Classifications
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches
  • R1 - General Regional Economics