Islam, Asif M.

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Last updated: April 14, 2024
Asif Islam is a senior economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region of the World Bank Group. His research focuses on private sector development. He has published in peer-reviewed journals on several dimensions of the private sector including entrepreneurship, technology, crime, informality, and gender. He has also published on fiscal policy, environment, and agriculture. He co-authored several reports including the World Development Report (2019) - The Changing Nature of Work, What's Holding Back the Private Sector in MENA? Lessons from the Enterprise Survey, and Uncharted Waters: The New Economics of Water Scarcity and Variability. He holds a PhD in Applied Economics from the University of Maryland-College Park, and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Computer Science from Macalester College.
Citations 65 Scopus

Publication Search Results

Now showing 1 - 7 of 7
  • Publication
    Discriminatory Environment, Firms' Discriminatory Behavior, and Women's Employment in the Democratic Republic of Congo
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-04) Muzi, Silvia; Hyland, Marie; Islam, Asif
    This paper contributes to better understanding firms' discriminatory behavior in the presence of gender-based legal discrimination and its linkages with labor market outcomes for women in a developing country setting. Using data collected through the World Bank Enterprise Surveys in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the paper documents the existence of nonnegligible employer discrimination and limitations in women's autonomy in the presence of a discriminatory environment. Interestingly, these are more pervasive outside the capital city, Kinshasa, which suggests that cultural norms or differences in regulation enforcement may be at play. The paper also finds that firms' discriminatory behavior harms women's labor market outcomes, in their representation among the upper echelons of management and participation in the overall workforce. The negative relationship between restrictions from discriminatory behaviors and female employment is particularly strong in the manufacturing sector.
  • Publication
    Middle East and North Africa Economic Update, April 2020: How Transparency Can Help the Middle East and North Africa
    (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2020-04-09) Arezki, Rabah; Lederman, Daniel; Abou Harb, Amani; El-Mallakh, Nelly; Fan, Rachel Yuting; Islam, Asif; Nguyen, Ha; Zouaidi, Marwane
    Due to the dual shocks of the spread of the virus and lower oil prices, World Bank economists expect output of MENA to decline in 2020. This is in sharp contrast to the growth forecast of 2.6 percent published in October 2019. The growth downgrade of 3.7 percentage points is arguably a measure for the costs associated with the dual shocks of Covid-19 and the oil price collapse. These numbers are tentative. The true impact depends on future developments of the dual shocks, policy and society’s response, which depends on the transparent use of health and economic data. We recommend a two-step approach: It might be desirable to focus first on responding to the health emergency and the associated economic contraction. Fiscal consolidation and structural reforms associated with the persistent drop in oil prices and pre-existing challenges are also very important, but with proper external support, can wait until the health emergency subsides. Nevertheless, the MENA region has challenges that predate the crisis – it has been growing far slower than its peers. Had MENA’s growth of output per capita been the same as that of a typical peer economy over the past two decades, the region’s real output per capita would be at least 20% higher than what it is today. A large part of MENA’s low growth is arguably due to a lack of transparency. MENA is the only region that dropped in data transparency and capacity since 2005. We estimate that this has cost MENA 7-14 percent in GDP per capita losses since 2005. Lack of transparency hinders credible analyses of many important issues, two of which are highlighted in the report. First, lack of data transparency hampers credible analyses on the region’s debt sustainability – an important issue to examine after the crisis. MENA countries vary greatly in their debt reporting standards. World Bank economists and other external analysts do not have access to vital information about many types of public debt. Second, the unemployment and informality numbers in the region are debatable since MENA countries rely on varying definitions of employment with little harmonization across the region or with respect to international standards. This affects analyses of unemployment and informality.
  • Publication
    Decomposing the Labour Productivity Gap between Migrant-Owned and Native-Owned Firms in Sub-Saharan Africa
    (Taylor and Francis, 2018-09-18) Islam, Asif; Amin, Mohammad
    Migration studies have been primarily based on the movement of individuals from developing to developed economies, with a focus on the impact of migrants on host country wages. In this study we take a different angle by exploring the labor productivity of migrant-owned firms versus native-owned firms in 20 African economies using firm-level data. We find that labor productivity is 78 per cent higher in migrant-owned firms than native-owned firms. Using the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition method we find that structural effects account for 80 per cent of the labor productivity gap. Returns to manager education largely explain the productivity advantage of migrant-owned firms over native-owned firms. Interactions with the government, access to finance, informality, and power outages are also considerable contributors to the labor productivity gap.
  • Publication
    Taming Private Leviathans: Regulation versus Taxation
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-01) Arezki, Rabah; Islam, Asif; Rota-Graziosi, Gregoire
    This paper explores the interplay between concentration of wealth and policies, namely regulation and taxation. The paper exploits variation in exposure to international commodity prices. Using a global panel data set of the net worth of billionaires, the results point to a positive relationship between commodity prices and the concentration of wealth at the top. Regulation especially pertaining to competition is found to limit the effects of commodity price shocks on the concentration of wealth, while taxation has little effect. Moreover, commodity price shocks crowd out non-resource tax revenue, hence limiting the scope for income transfers and redistribution. The results are consistent with the primacy of ex ante interventions over ex post ones for addressing wealth inequality.
  • Publication
    Unequal before the Law: Measuring Legal Gender Disparities across the World
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2016-08) Iqbal, Sarah; Islam, Asif; Ramalho, Rita; Sakhonchik, Alena
    Several economies have laws that treat women differently from men. This study explores the degree of such legal gender disparities across 167 economies around the world. This is achieved by constructing a simple measure of legal gender disparities to evaluate how countries perform. The average number of overall legal gender disparities across 167 economies is 17, ranging from a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 44. The maximum possible legal gender disparities is 71. The measure is found to be correlated with other measures of gender inequality, implying the measure does capture gender inequality while also differing from preexisting measures of gender inequality. A high degree of legal gender disparities is found to be negatively associated with a wide range of outcomes, including years of education of women relative to men, labor force participation rates of women relative to men, proportion of women top managers, proportion of women in parliament, percentage of women that borrowed from a financial institution relative to men, and child mortality rates. Subcategories within the legal disparities measure help to uncover specific types of legal disparities across economies.
  • Publication
    Gendered Laws, Informal Origins, and Subsequent Performance
    (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-08) Hyland, Marie; Islam, Asif
    This research explores the relationship between laws that discriminate on the basis of gender and the probability that a female-owned business begins operating in the informal sector. This is achieved by tracing the origins of formal businesses surveyed in the World Bank Enterprise Surveys and merging this with information on the level of legal equality between genders as measured by the Women, Business and the Law database. In addition, the research explores whether starting a business informally has any differential effect on subsequent firm performance depending on the gender of the owner(s). The results show that gender discriminatory laws increase the likelihood that firms with female owners will begin operations in the informal sector; as expected, this does not hold for enterprises that are solely owned by men. Furthermore, the research provides evidence that firms that began operations informally have poorer performance years later—a relationship that exists both for firms with female owners and for firms fully owned by men. The results show notable variation by region.
  • Publication
    Does Mandating Nondiscrimination in Hiring Practices Influence Women's Employment? Evidence Using Firm-level Data
    (Taylor and Francis, 2015-02-26) Amin, Mohammad; Islam, Asif
    This study explores the relationship between mandating a nondiscrimination clause in hiring practices along gender lines and the employment of women versus men in fifty-eight developing countries. Using data from the World Bank's Enterprise Surveys (2006–10), the study finds a strong positive relationship between the nondiscrimination clause and women's relative to men's employment. The relationship is robust to a large number of controls at the firm and country level. Results also show sharp heterogeneity in the relationship between the nondiscrimination clause and women's versus men's employment, with the relationship being much bigger in richer countries and in countries with more women in the population as well as among relatively smaller firms.