Middle Eastern Women and the Invisible Economy

By Richard A. Lobban | Go to book overview

10
Women in the Invisible Economy in Tunis

Richard A. Lobban Jr.

This chapter turns to the theoretical and empirical aspects of the women's presence, or absence, in the economy of the greater metropolitan area of Tunis. It takes off from an earlier work1 that focused on the informal economy in Tunis in general. However, this study is guided by the assumption that there is an integrated and unitary economy overall.

While the overt public economic presence of women is not great in Tunis, this study of the invisible economy requires a model that articulates the role for both men and women. As described in the introduction, this research recognizes the fundamental, dependent, and necessary connections of the invisible economy to the wider economic system. Although this invisible sector is peripheral to the sources of finance capital, it is essential for the grassroots provision and distribution of goods and services in the wider economy.2 Moreover, the logic of all capital-based systems, which seeks to maximize earnings and minimize costs, is followed by both the "visible" (formal) and "invisible" (informal) sectors.

The street-level methodology of this chapter shows what can be done on this level. But as a male, I am aware of how much is missed if household surveys and observations made by female researchers are not also incorporated. Fortunately this book provides field data generated almost exclusively by female researchers, who have investigated the issue at the neighborhood and household level.


Definitions and Dimensions of the Tunisian Invisible Economy

As noted elsewhere in this book, the invisible economy has gone by many other names, such as the nonstructured sector, the traditional economy, the informal economy, and the spontaneous economy, but each term has vari-

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