Low Female Labor Force Participation in the Gulf: Cultural preferences or a necessary consequence of large oil rents?

Author: Marie Naalsund Ingvaldsen, Gulf Research Unit Scholarship 2010.


In 2008, Michael Ross published an article "Oil, Islam, and Women" where he in the introduction asserts that "... women in the Middle East are underrepresented in the work force and in government because of oil - not Islam." I use Ross' data and find that his regression is misleading and his conclusion to harsh. By including an interaction term between Islamic influence and a country's oil rents I find that it is the combination of large oil rents and Islamic presence that has a negative effect on women's labor force participation. This result is significant, while oil rent on its own has no significant effect at all. These findings are in accordance with the observation that the oil rich countries in the Gulf region have among the lowest rate of female labor force participation in the world, while Norway, a country which also exhibit large oil rents, ranks as one of the countries where the female labor force participation is highest. Furthermore, it relates well to the fact that the oil rich countries in MENA has significantly lower female labor force participation than the average in the rest of the region.

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Published Mar. 23, 2015 11:20 AM