Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s employment was low and declining in Egypt. There are three key constraints to women’s participation in Egypt’s labor market: high opportunity cost of time, weak labor demand, and restrictive gender norms. Reconciling employment and domestic responsibilities is particularly difficult for married women; nearly half of those who were employed in the private sector leave such work as they prepare to marry and wed (Assaad, Krafft, & Selwaness, 2022; Krafft, Assaad, & Keo, 2019). The availability and affordability of child care may be a particular constraint on women’s ability to work.
We are undertaking a randomized controlled trial to test the effects of providing child care subsidies and employment services on women’s employment. Our project is targeted to 5,000 women with young children (aged 1-5) in low-income, informal areas in Greater Cairo, living in the catchment area of participating nurseries and who are not yet a client of a nursery. Since these women face particular challenges in light of the pandemic, we included in the baseline survey a number of questions on the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on households. This brief summarizes preliminary findings based on 3,265 mothers and 1,246 of their spouses.