In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region,
women remain untapped resources comprising 49 percent
of the total population, including more than half
of the university students in some countries, and yet
make up just 28 percent of the labor force.
Morocco is no exception; women make up 50 percent
of the population, 47 percent of the tertiary education
enrollment, but only 26 percent of the labor force. Furthermore, the female labor force participation (FLFP)
rate in Morocco declined from 30 percent to 26 percent
between 1999 and 2010. Indeed, the FLFP rate in the
MENA region is the lowest in the world. It is
important to understand the mechanisms behind this
low female participation rate, as higher FLFP rates
could lead to higher economic growth in the region. For
instance, according to a report by the World Bank, if
FLFP rates were increased to predicted levels calculated
from various demographic and economic factors,
average household earnings would increase by 25 percent,
which would allow many of those households to
achieve middle-class status.
We need to consider policy options, acknowledging neither economic development nor women’s empowerment is “the magic bullet” to realizing economic development and gender equality.
Many researchers have conducted studies on the relationship
between gender inequality and economic development.
Seguino makes a rather provocative claim
that, in semi-industrialized economies, gender inequality
actually promotes economic growth through enhanced
investment. Here, gender inequality concerns the wage
levels between women and men, translated into higher
profitability on investments using low-wage female labor.
Although similar arguments are made by Ertürk
and Cagata, Schober makes a counterargument that
gender inequality in wages is not related to higher economic
growth. Rather, the impact of gender inequality
is negative for growth. In these attempts to explain the
relationship between economic development and gender
equality, it is important to distinguish the two directions of
causality: whether economic development brings about
gender equality, or gender equality brings about economic
development. According to Duflo, although we
find supporting evidence for both directions of causality,
we need to consider policy options, acknowledging neither
economic development nor women’s empowerment
is “the magic bullet” to realizing economic development
and gender equality.
In a recent report by the IMF,11 a U-shaped relationship
between GDP per capita and FLFP rated across
countries has been shown. Comparing the datasets
for 1980 and 2010, we also find that the average FLFP
rate shifted upward over the period.