Young Women's Labour Market Chances in Muslim Middle Eastern and Northern African Countries

Research question/goal: 

Against the background that young women in Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) countries have the worst labour market chances in worldwide comparison, the central research question of this project was to identify determinants of young women’s labour market chances in MENA countries. Instead of just focusing on labour market aspect this project adopted a holistic perspective on women’s school-to-work transition process and important related processes of educational attainment and family formation following the conception of the “transition to adulthood”. Adopting a life course perspective a general micro-macro-theoretical framework was developed for understanding the chances and barriers women face in their transition to adulthood.

For the empirical analyses, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, and Syria were selected as country case studies. Macro-data were collected and analysed in order to describe the specific institutional, cultural, and macro-structural context that young women face in the four selected MENA countries. Moreover, the project drew on micro-data from nationally representative, large-scale individual-level data from household panel surveys and retrospective youth surveys from Egypt, Iran, Jordan, and Syria covering the most recent years prior to the Arab Spring. Based on these data, women were tracked over their early life courses, enabling to capture the dynamic processes and micro-level causal mechanisms of the transition to adulthood.

Results of the project were presented at several international conferences and were published in a monograph (Gebel, M. and S. Heyne (2014). Transitions to adulthood in the Middle East and North Africa. Young women’s rising? Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan). The results show that there is no standard pathway to adulthood, yet rather a great variety of individual early life courses inducing a high level of social inequality among young women. A set of individual-level, familial, and contextual factors was identified that hinder or pave young women's way in the different life domains. Moreover, results show strong interrelationships between early life course conditions and transitions.

Fact sheet

Ministry of Science, Research and Arts Baden-Württemberg
2011 to 2014
Data Sources: 
National school leaver surveys and household panel data
Geographic Space: 
Azerbaijan, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Syria and Turkey



Gebel, Michael, and Stefanie Heyne (2014): Transitions to Adulthood in the Middle East and North Africa: Young Women's Rising?. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. more