Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



In this working paper, the authors contrast two approaches to the measurement of women’s work applied to the same population of ever-married women. These women were interviewed on two occasions—first during the 2003 Interim Egypt DHS, and again during the Slow Fertility Transition (SFT) survey conducted in 2004. The DHS uses a standard keyword question to measure work, while the SFT employs an activities list question format. The authors argue that the widely used keyword approaches to measuring women’s work underestimate the level of female labor force activity. They demonstrate that the activities list approach captures a wider range of economic activities among women, while allowing them to document multiple jobs held simultaneously by respondents. Furthermore, they find that keyword questions disproportionately exclude poor and poorly educated working women from the labor force. Survey approaches to the measurement of women’s work must be revised to fully account for women’s contributions to family welfare and national accounts, and to understand the relationship of work to other variables and processes of interest to social scientists.