The process of demographic transition has increased the share of the working-age population in Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This situation has created an opportunity for economic growth, called the demographic dividend. Global comparisons show that a favorable age structure has not always resulted in a boost in economic growth. In order to take a full advantage of the MENA’s demographic dividend, it is important to identify different factors contributing to economic growth in this region. Investment in women’s human capital is expected to have important implications for the region’s economic growth and for maximizing the benefits created by the demographic dividend. Using a range of data sources, this paper aims to determine the association between women’s human capital (measured by adult educational attainment and health status) and economic growth (measured by gross national income per capita) in MENA. The findings show a positive association between these two. Specifically, the national-level income is generally higher in countries with lower maternal mortality and higher female literacy, female tertiary education, female life and healthy life expectancies at birth and professional childbirth attendance. Thus, investment in women’s human capital can accelerate the pace of development in MENA.

Author Biography

Fatemeh Torabi obtained her Ph.D. at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Her areas of interests are marriage, fertility, women’s labor force participation and family demography in Iran and Muslim countries. Jointly with Abbasi-Shavazi, Torabi is currently involved in the study of solo living in Iran as well as an analysis of time use and family formation among women in Iran. Assistant Professor of Demography, Department of Demography, University of Tehran, Iran.

Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi’s main research has been focused on Iran’s fertility transition, but he has also worked on other areas including family change, reproductive health, Muslim demography, international migration/ethnicity, and Afghan refugees in Iran. Abbasi-Shavazi’s co-authored book on Fertility Transition in Iran: Reproduction and Revolution published by Springer in 2009 documented that Iran’s fertility decline has been the largest and fastest fall of fertility ever recorded. Professor, Department of Demography, University of Tehran; Director, National Institute of Population Research, Iran and Research Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Australia.