How can we make the Egyptian people employable?

Labor market is a valuable pillar to achieve economic and social progress and is key to alleviating poverty and promoting inclusion in Egypt. This is why labor market indicators are among the most timely and important measures of economic performance. The Economic Research Forum (ERF) recognizes the value and determines the need to comprehensively study the Egyptian Labor markets. Hence the ELMPS survey- The Egyptian Labor Market Panel Survey.

Timing of the survey results is key, after the January 25th revolution Egypt is no longer the same. Egyptians calling for their ‘right to information Access’, people need to know. ‘To complement two previous surveys of 1998 and 2006, ERF carried out a new round of the Egypt Labor Market Panel Survey (ELMPS) in 2012. It thus marks the third round of a longitudinal survey that tracks the labor market and demographic characteristics of households and individuals interviewed in the two previous rounds.’ (ERF website)

It is not only unemployment that matters
The survey links changes in the Egyptian labor markets to demographic variations. Unemployment rate happens to be an incomplete or misleading indicator of labor market conditions in Egypt; it is indeed  a proper economic indicator, but it does not say much about how the people are affected by economic crises, what are the emerging trends affecting the labor market, who are the most/least marginalized? Does marriage have an effect on labor force, especially women’s participation? Education? And many more.

Alerts and policy recommendations
It is evident that unemployment continues to consume a troublesome share of the Egyptian labor markets. However, the ELMPS Survey results show that the Egyptian labor markets suffer not only from unemployment but also suffer significantly from underemployment as well as people are working less working hours. It is true that the unemployment rates are slightly below average; nevertheless, disparity within the range is worrisome and is worth paying specific attention to by policy and decision makers.

Indicators like, the diminishing role of women’s participation in the labor force has further negative implications in the future, on education for instance. If women do not have a rewarding job that pays off living, then why would families sendoff girls to school in the first place? As such, government has to enforce policies that would encourage women’s participation in the labor market in order not to forgo on women’s contribution in society.

Another angle worth mentioning is the informality in the labor market sector. Informal employment is not a recent or seasonal feature to the Egyptian labor market; it actually comprises a large segment of the Egyptian labor force. Despite the fact that informality in the labor market has always been and continues to be a long standing phenomenon in Egypt, there has never been decisive counteractive policies towards reducing this measure. It is time for policymakers to issue policies that would change the institutional framework in which informal projects operate within the private sector and find ways to encourage inclusiveness towards contributing to the GDP.

One more aspect is the unequal job opportunities between Upper and Lower Egypt. Unemployment rate is by far much higher in Lower Egypt than in major governorates and Upper parts (Alia El Mahdi, Cairo University), and hence policy makers have to take this into consideration when making their decisions.

Actionable policies
The main aim of collecting data is the move from data to information to knowledge to wisdom. The last session of the ERF session is meant to move the data and knowledge shared through the event to actionable policy advice for decision makers. What is most important is that this piece of work gets circulated widely and not sits within researchers or elites, but moves closer to decision and policy makers.

There is a great need for policy relevant data for conducting policy relevant research, and since micro data in the MENA region is either unavailable or unobtainable, ERF has made an exceptional effort to make micro data available for researchers – (Daniela Zampini, ILO Decent Work team for North Africa). The wealth of data that has been produced as part of the survey has to be translated into knowledge and subsequently into action. Often the pressure and the demand comes from policymakers and policy planners because they are the ones ultimately who make decisions. The survey results can be implemented into policy options that can be brought to the attention of other institutions like the public employment service offices, so that policy makers can enable those decisions to be realized and activated and at the same time provide training and knowledge to people at the employment service offices to break down, disaggregate and use the data to understand better what to do in your everyday work and how to make better decisions.

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