The Informal Economy in Arab Nations: A Comparative Perspective

Marty Chen, Jenna Harvey

Until fairly recently, labor markets in the MENA region were characterized by a large public sector, a small, weak private sector, and, depending on the country, a sizable agricultural sector and a sizable informal sector outside agriculture (Assaad 2014). But in the run-up to the Arab Spring, which began in 2010, both youth unemployment and informal employment were on the rise. With the current conflict and terrorism in the region, rural to urban and cross-border migration has increased, leading, in all likelihood, to even greater unemployment and informal employment.

This paper contributes to the Arab Watch Report (launched May 2017), which represents an important effort to take stock of labor markets in general and informal employment in particular in the MENA region. This paper provides a comparative overview to the country studies on informal employment in the region.