Why is the Public Sector the Employer of Choice among Women in the Middle East? A Gendered Qualitative Inquiry into PSM in a Global Context

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Public Policy & Administration Department

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Research Article

Publication Title

Review of Public Personnel Administration

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The public sector is the key employer of educated women in Arab countries. This article seeks to explain this phenomenon, embedding the employment experience of these women within the knowledge base of public service motivation (PSM). Relying on semi-structured interviews conducted with women from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, this article highlights three motivational factors among this group: “pure” service motivation; gender-specific motives; and extrinsic factors. The article shows that women’s work in the public sector is socially valued for reasons that pertain to a culture of gender expectations and respect for the public service. The analysis extends the scholarship on PSM into a global context and highlights the limitations of a PSM scholarship that is focused on attitudinal statements. The qualitative data supports an argument for the inclusion of contextual variables pertaining to institutions of socialization, gender roles, historical contexts, and labor market conditions into PSM research.

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