Jobs and Growth in North Africa: An Expert Network in Collaboration with the International Labour Organization - Economic Research Forum (ERF)

In North Africa many think of the 2000s have been a decade of rarely seen growth; yet they ended on a wave of rarely seen social discontent. A severe economic slump has followed, with countries like Egypt and Tunisia only just recently recovering. The public policy playbook, and the public discourse, remains to a large extent centered on a “return to growth”. Effective public policy is, to a large extent, a factor of the quality of the “national discourse” that informs and monitors it. A network will be formed by ERF and the ILO (with support from SIDA as part of the ADWA’ project), around a regional conference organised every year in a North African country and a flagship thematic report. The overarching goal of the expert network is to contribute to a better understanding of the non-linear relationship between growth and employment creation, and of the factors and policy instruments that may influence these, in countries of North Africa. The workshop is organized as a launching event to kick start the project and bring together all stakeholders from the countries in question as well as data producers and researchers and form the base of the network.

Context

In North Africa many think of the 2000s have been a decade of rarely seen growth; yet they ended on a wave of rarely seen social discontent. A severe economic slump has followed, with countries like Egypt and Tunisia only just recently recovering. Yet in some respects the lessons of North Africa’s recent past have yet to be learned. The public policy playbook, and the public discourse, remains to a large extent centered on a “return to growth”. Retrospectively, most will acknowledge that high growth in the 2000s had left many, indeed the many, on the side-lines; that while real per capita GDP was rising, most were not benefiting – indeed where falling behind compared to the wealthy in their societies. Effective public policy is, to a large extent, a factor of the quality of the “national discourse” that informs and monitors it. Improving the national discourse involves breaking silo tendencies within economics and economic policy making – with macro, micro, labour and other economic disciplines engaging only too rarely; enhancing, the availability, reliability and use of key economic data, including labour statistics; or mitigating (ideological) preconceptions and mistrust among individuals.

While some of their characteristics differ widely, North African countries also have a lot in common – and a lot to learn about each other. A network will be formed by ERF and the ILO (with support from SIDA as part of the ADWA’ project), including around a regional conference organised every year in a North African country. Research papers will be commissioned, and an annual report be produced, including for presentation there. Additionally, the overarching goal of the expert network is to contribute to a better understanding of the non-linear relationship between growth and employment creation, and of the factors and policy instruments that may influence these, in countries of North Africa. A broad lens and a broad scope of expertise are considered; key issues of likely interest are relations between employment and public investment; countercyclical management; incentives to private investment; sectoral policy; human capital and education; or the role of social protection instruments.

Workshop objectives and Setting

The objective of the workshop is to initiate dialogue and collaboration across economists and social scientists, around the twin goals of promoting jobs and growth, ultimately to strengthen evidence-based policymaking. The workshop will convene for one day, divided into three sessions.