Middle-class Egyptian women negotiating marriage, family and work

2017-02-23T00:54:44Z (GMT) by Roque, Dahlia Tawhid
Egyptian women have made impressive advances in educational attainment in recent decades, particularly at the tertiary level. Nevertheless, contrary to worldwide trends that illustrate a strong correlation between women’s educational attainment and labour market participation, in Egypt this rise has failed to coincide with an increase in women’s employment. Egypt has amongst the lowest female labour market participation rates in the world, with only 22.1 per cent of women aged 15-64 engaged in employment (CAPMAS, 2013). Furthermore, Egyptian women with university degrees have exceptionally low comparative employment rates at just 22.9 per cent (CAPMAS, 2011). This thesis investigates the reasons behind the remarkably low labour market participation rates of highly educated Egyptian women. The research presents an analysis of 38 in-depth interviews conducted with tertiary-educated, middle-class Egyptian women living in urban Cairo and Alexandria. The thesis contributes to the knowledge of marriage, wealth and resources amongst middle-class Egyptian women, and how these factors influence their employment status. It reveals the importance of pre-marital negotiations amongst middle class Egyptian families, and the key strategies that women employ in order to secure their economic wellbeing in their marital and domestic contexts. It illuminates the barriers that Egyptian women face in combining paid work and family care, and reveals how economic factors, such as opportunities for good jobs and decent pay impact on Egyptian women’s choices, with few factors facilitating workforce participation for the majority of middle-class women.