Measuring Women's Work: A Methodological Exploration Using Egyptian Data
Ray Langsten, American University in Cairo
Rania Salem, Princeton University
In this paper we contrast two approaches to the measurement of women’s work applied to the same sample of women on two separate occasions – the 2003 Egypt DHS, and the Slow Fertility Transition (SFT) survey of 2004. The DHS employs a standard keyword question, the SFT an activities list. Keyword approaches to measuring women’s work underestimate the level of female labor force activity, as shown by the DHS-SFT comparison and supported by analysis of data from the Egyptian Labor Market Survey. Furthermore, keyword questions yield biased estimates by excluding much informal work and work performed by disadvantaged women. The use of an activities list is particularly important in developing countries and where informalization of work is a significant issue. Better understanding of informalization, as well as of associations between women’s work and important variables such as childbearing and child welfare, calls for a reconsideration of standard question formats.