Day III of ERF 20th Annual Conference: Emerging lessons from Arab countries in transition

The third and final day of the ERF 20th Annual Conference started with discussions around lessons emerging from the experience of Arab countries in transition. Chaired by Noha El-Mikawy (Ford Foundation), plenary session 3 gathered a number of distinguished economists: Gouda Abdel-Khalek (Cairo University); Georges Corm (Georges Corm Consulting Office); Paul Salem (Middle East Institute); and Zafiris Tzannatos (International Labor Organization).

DSC_6980

In his presentation on ‘Social Justice: lessons of experience for Egypt‘, Gouda Abdel-Khalek (Cairo University) examined the meaning behind ‘bread, freedom and social justice’, which became the main slogan of the uprising in Egypt. He discussed how tricky it is to establish social justice in times of political unrest. To support his argument, Abdel-Khalek referred to social injustice indicators that Egyptian society has been witnessing since January 25th, including decreasing wage share to GDP, rising unemployment (youth unemployment over 30%), rising poverty, increasing urban/rural divide, poor access to water and child undernutrition. It seems very little has been done to achieve the slogan of the revolution; therefore, Abdel-Khalek stressed on the need for reforms touching upon taxation systems and subsidizing agricultural producers.

Read more on ERF blog

Read more of this post

Day two and counting.. ERF 20th annual conference

Comparative Experiences of Social Injustice

The ERF 20th Annual conference carried on for the second consecutive day with plenary session presentations on studies of social justice experiences in different countries across the globe. The 2nd plenary session was chaired by Dr. Heba Handoussa (Egyptian Network for Integrated Development “ENID”), along with a distinguished panel of economists; Shanta Devarajan (World Bank Africa), Mahmoud El-Gamal (Rice University) and Carlos Eduardo Vélez (Universidad de los Andes).

Speakers during the 2nd plenary session

ERF 20th Annual Conference 2nd plenary session

World Bank Africa’s chief economist Shantayanan Devarajan addressed the issue of “capture and the failure of free public services” in developing countries. Devarajan argues how the nature of free public services promotes inequality of opportunity, where the elite can “capture” the better end of public goods distribution. The paper focused mainly on case studies from African and Asian countries; namely Mali, Gabon, India and Indonesia respectively.

Read more of this post

ERF 20th Annual Conference on “Social justice and economic development”

Economic Research Forum (ERF) kick-started its 20th Annual Conference in Cairo yesterday, March 22nd, featuring an impressive line-up of speakers. In light of the significant political transformations happening in the region, this year’s conference is devoted to the theme “Social Justice and Economic Development”. Social justice is widely considered to be one of the main factors behind popular uprisings in the MENA region; Arab societies witnessed an increasing concentration of wealth, unequal opportunities and rising corruption. The conference is addressing social justice with a special focus on what social justice might mean, how different societies were able to bring it about, and the lessons-learned from these experiences for Arab countries, particularly the ones in transition.

Speakers during ERF annual conference

Alternative perspectives on social justice

The opening and first plenary session discussed the alternative perspectives on social justice. Following the opening remarks of Ahmed Galal (ERF Managing Director), and Abdlatif Al-Hamad (Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development), François Bourguignon (Paris School of Economics) discussed the empirical and factual side of inequality in his presentation entitled ‘Inequality trends in the world: Common forces, idiosyncrasies and measurement errors’. When comparing the patterns of inequality in the developed world with that of the MENA region, Bourguignon shows that two thirds of developed countries witnessed an increasing inequality in the two decades between 1980 and 2000; including Sweden and the Netherlands, as do countries in Africa and Latin America. The striking intelligence he shared is that only the MENA region ‘shows surprising stability’.

Watch our interview with François Bourguignon

 

Read more of this post

Researcher policymaker: A missing bridge?

Knowledge Café

Knowledge Café

It’s quite amazing the amount of time and effort that southern researchers invest to research their ideas and present them to the world, despite the numerous challenges they face throughout this path. And ohh the pride they take in that! The role of communication is to define how big that “world” is.. It could be anything from a desk drawer to an implemented policy.

In most developing countries, unfortunately, the odds are that most research ends up warm and cozy in an office desk drawer. Not to sound satirical, it’s no secret that developing countries are hardly “the place” for hearing out what the people have to say, let alone the researchers who go out of their way to not only add to their own knowledge but to contribute to bringing about change in their societies. With that said, it’s not quite safe to blame it all on bad communication now, is it?

This blog post is supposed to highlight some of the challenges that African researchers face in “doing” research and “communicating” it to inform and advice policy. Wrapping up our latest GDNet-AERC Policy Brief Training Workshop, we picked some of the participants’ brains regarding that particular topic.

Read more of this post

How can we make the Egyptian people employable?

Labor market is a valuable pillar to achieve economic and social progress and is key to alleviating poverty and promoting inclusion in Egypt. This is why labor market indicators are among the most timely and important measures of economic performance. The Economic Research Forum (ERF) recognizes the value and determines the need to comprehensively study the Egyptian Labor markets. Hence the ELMPS survey- The Egyptian Labor Market Panel Survey.

Timing of the survey results is key, after the January 25th revolution Egypt is no longer the same. Egyptians calling for their ‘right to information Access’, people need to know. ‘To complement two previous surveys of 1998 and 2006, ERF carried out a new round of the Egypt Labor Market Panel Survey (ELMPS) in 2012. It thus marks the third round of a longitudinal survey that tracks the labor market and demographic characteristics of households and individuals interviewed in the two previous rounds.’ (ERF website)

Read more of this post

Education in Egypt: A deep rooted problem

This post was written by Shahira Moneib (GDNet)

Higher education students of private institutions have shown to be more concerned about credentials than obtaining skills that would be beneficial to them in the labor market.

This is one of the findings of a paper entitled “Aligning Incentives to Reforming Higher Education in Egypt: The Role of Private Institutions” by Ghada Barsoum, professor at the American University in Cairo; which looks at the quality of education through the assessment and feedback of students based on their experiences. According to Barsoum, private institutions tend to be more lenient with students in terms of the amount of work and assignments given to them, which in turn affects their skills development.

Barsoum added that private institutions now compose one fifth of higher education institutions in Egypt. This is a phenomenon that has caught the attention of researchers in the field lately as the international trend is playing a strong role in several countries.

Discussed at the latest Economic Research Forum (ERF) workshop, “Incentives for Better Quality Higher Education in Egypt and Jordan”, the paper compares the learning experience between public and private higher education institutions in Egypt. In the light of her research work, Barsoum argues that rules aiming to control the quality of education in private institution have become necessary , towards a higher value of the  learning outcomes of education as opposed to credentials.

Read more of this post

From a craftsman to a well-rounded strategic decision maker

Today, women and youth are ruling over the world and making their mark in various fields with their dedication and hard work to excel in their area of expertise, especially that the youth are the future, and one day will control the nation, but is this the case in Egypt? Well, a major area of concern in Egypt is the youth representing about 20% of Egypt’s total population, whereas rural youth account for 59% of Egypt’s total youth and representing 85% of Egypt’s poor youth (2009 Survey of Young People in Egypt – SYPE).  Further, female participation in the Egyptian labor market is among the lowest in the world since it is a highly gender-discriminated market, in which young women (aged 18 – 29) represent only 18.5% of the Egyptian workforce.

ENID is implementing a set of four highly integrated programs, each of which has the potential to impact on job creation and poverty reduction in both the medium and longer term. The first group of beneficiaries targeted by ENID programs is the youth and women segments of Upper Egypt society. We had the chance to interview Engineer Ayat Abdel Mooty, who is the Manager of Program A “Empowerment of Women and Youth”, during ENID’s first annual conference.

But what does “women empowerment” really stand for?

Read more of this post

Developmental Challenges in Upper Egypt: A woman’s perspective

“الست لو خدت حظها في التعليم؛ هتعرف ازاي تشارك، ازاي تطور في المجتمع بتاعها، ازاي تشارك في الحياه الثقافية و السياسية في مجتمعها…. تعرف اللي ليها و اللي عليها”

“If women are empowered with proper education; they’d be able to participate, to develop their communities, and to contribute to the cultural and political life… They will know their rights and their duties!”

Qena Governorate, Upper Egypt
Qena Governorate, Upper Egypt

These are the words of Zeinab Maghraby, whom we’ve had the opportunity to interview at ENID’s annual conference. Zeinab is a simple rural woman from Upper Egypt, specifically from a small town called “Gezeeret El Dom” in Qena governorate. We asked Zeinab to tell us, in her opinion, about the developmental challenges they face in Upper Egypt and how ENID’s initiative helps them overcome some of these challenges.

Empowering Women..

Modest as she seems, Zeinab makes some compelling arguments regarding the challenges that face development in Upper Egypt and how the government approaches their problems. She first talks about women and how they face many problems, especially in rural Egypt. Zeinab argues that women need to be empowered in the work environment as well as the political life. The underlying challenge, in her opinion, is illiteracy. She believes that an educated woman is fit for participation, advisory and change; whether in the scope of her small community or even in politics.

Read more of this post

Unemployment rate is a misleading indicator to the labor market, conventional or not?

As we know, the number of people at work is generally related to whether an economy is growing or not. In other words, unemployment can be thought of as a double-edged sword; when economic activity is high, more people are needed to produce the higher amount of goods and services. Thus, it is very important to measure different aspects of the labor market in order to get a better feel for the health of the economy. The unemployment rate is probably the best-known labor market measure and certainly one of the most widely quoted.

The last session of the ERF’s Conference “The Egyptian Labor Market in a Revolutionary Era: results from the 2012 survey (ELMPS)” was a panel discussion on the labor markets in Egypt; we had the chance to interview Ragui Assaad (University of Minnesota), who was one of the panelists.  He argues that the unemployment rate, while useful, does not take into account a number of important features of the labor market, for example, it doesn’t show how the economy is doing during economic crisis and its effect on the labor market.

But is the unemployment rate really the most accurate indicator to the health of the labor market?

While the unemployment rate may be considered as the most informative labor market indicator reflecting the general performance of the labor market and the economy as a whole, it does not say anything about the type of unemployment; whether it is cyclical; not having enough demand for labor to employ all those who are looking for work, or structural; a longer-lasting form of unemployment caused by fundamental shifts in an economy, such as workers’ lack of requisite job skills or inability to move out of their regions. Moreover, it does not take into consideration the informal sector which constitutes a large share of the Egyptian labor market.

Read more of this post

Recommendations on Egyptian labor market policies

This is a playlist for experts who were generous enough to give us a few minutes to inform the public about research they are undergoing on Labor issues in Egypt, challenges, opportunities, hick-ups, and lay a knowledge-based perspective of how things look like especially from 2006 up to 2012. Since, readers are currently employed, or were employed at some point in someway,  I would assume that Egyptians or those interested in the Egyptian labor market,  will find this playlist particularly useful.

A bit of background:
The Economic Research Forum (ERF) held a dissemination event to announce the public release of the 2012 round of the Egypt Labor Market Panel Survey (ELMPS 2012), which was carried out by ERF in cooperation with Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). The public release of the ELMPS 2012 data provides an important opportunity for researchers to better understand the Egyptian labor market in the wake of the global financial crisis and the 25th of January, 2011 revolution. (ERF website)

Read more of this post