Wage Work to Prepare for Marriage: Labor Force Entry for Young Women in Egypt

Sajeda Amin, Population Council
Nagah Al-Bassusi, Population Council

This paper explores values and attitudes related to work, marriage, and family among young wage workers in Egypt. We analyze data from two nationally representative labor force surveys conducted in 1988 and 1998, along with in-depth interviews from a qualitative study of young working women in rural and urban Egypt. Rising material aspirations and associated costs appear to be at the root of rising age at marriage. Young couples are expected to accumulate enough resources to set up their own separate household before they marry. This nuclear family form represents a radical departure from the recent past when a new couple typically began married life as part of an extended household in the manner described by Hajnal's (1982) characterization of a joint household formation system. The paper concludes with discussion on the implications of women's work for family change.

Presented in Session 54: The Implications of Social Change for Family Attitudes and Behaviors: An International Panel