9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS08 Modernization Theory. Dead or Alive in the 21st Century?

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Societies in transition Building AA, AA.324

Modernization in the Arab countries of the Mashreq region

The most populated countries of the Mashreq region, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Syria have witnessed substantial socio-demographic changes which allow to think they are deepley involved in a modernization process.

Increases on literacy rates as well as decreases on infant mortality and fertility rates expereinced by the countries of the Mashreq region are notorious for being the fastest in the history of the world. However, important differences continue to exist between them concerning variables considered by many sociologists to be strongly associated with modernization such as urbanization, tertiaritiation of the economy and the process of women emancipation. This has contributed to shape a landscape of great regional heterogeneity and diversity. On this paper, we present statistical data obtained mainly from the United Nations, the US Census Bureau and the International Labour Office data sets, to draw conclusions on the complex existing relationship between different indicators of modernization in the above mentioned countries, and to explain why, under certain circumstances, they should not be expected to evolve concomitantly.

A rough description of how these variables have interacted in a rather counter-intuitiveley fashion in the region could be the following: Higher levels of income per capita such as those of Saudi Arabia have lead to improvements on female schooling but also allow larger number of households to continue attached to a model of a sole male breadwinner. They also facilitate earlier emancipation from parental households of young adults and earlier formation of couples (in particular the occurence of early marriages, those in which the wife is younger than 20 years old). Thus, it should not be surprising that female participation rates are higher in a country like Syria (with lower GDP per capita and lower rates of female literacy and university enrolment) than in Saudi Arabia. In Syria, as in Jordan and Lebanon, data on income per capita and female employment suggests that the revenues from womens activity in the labour market is needed in a larger number of households than in Saudi Arabia.