Perspectives from Middle East and North African Countries
Edited by Carlo Altomonte and Massimiliano Ferrara
Chapter 4: International trade, female labor and entrepreneurship in MENA countries
The relationship between trade and gender has recently emerged as an important theme in the international economics and development literature. The United Nations' Millennium Development Goal No. 3 is to promote gender equality and empower women, a broad goal that can cover many areas of economic and non-economic activity. The entire World Development Report 2012 (WDR) (World Bank, 2011) is devoted to the study of gender issues, and its Chapter 5 focuses specifically on the relationship between trade and gender, highlighting the main conceptual issues and presenting several interesting research avenues. In fact, this explicit effort is reinforcing research on gender at both the macroeconomic and microeconomic levels. At the macroeconomic level, the evidence suggests that female labor participation decisions have important aggregate consequences and are correlated with certain forms of technological change that may affect women differently from men, as women tend to have a comparative disadvantage in brawn-intensive activity independent of the fact that the distribution of 'brain' skills and abilities is the same for men and women. At the microeconomic level, there is a better understanding of some of the mechanisms that 'empower' women, for example, within the household in both advanced economies and in a development context. In this chapter, we attempt to analyze the relationship between international trade and gender - defined here as both female labor participation and female ownership and entrepreneurship - in the Mediterranean and North African (MENA) countries.
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