This paper presents the outcomes of an ETF project aimed at improving
and increasing women’s opportunities in employment in Egypt. What are
the barriers and opportunities for women’s employment? How can the role
of women be strengthened in the labour market? In attempting to gain an
insight into these issues, the project focused on two sectors with a
high potential for generating employment and a need for skilled labour
force, namely tourism and ICT sectors. Women and work in Egypt
New ETF study sheds light on gender inequality in education and the labour market in Egypt
Still viewed as subordinate and dependent individuals, ETF study in the Middle East and North African region shows that females have lower averages of participation in education and the labour market than men, despite the fact that their efforts are needed on both the individual and public levels.
Ensuring greater participation of women in the labour market would result in a national economic growth on one hand, and in providing a better income for the family in addition to the educational and health benefits on the other. Hence, this would mean assuring benefits on both the macro and micro levels.
Aware of the fact that the Middle East and North African region (MENA) witnesses the lowest female labour force participation in the world, the ETF project Women and work
seeks to promote sustainable gender equality policies in Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan in areas of education, training and employment. Aiming at increasing knowledge and awareness of obstacles facing women in education and the labour market, the ETF launched this project to provide national authorities and European Commission with recommendations upon which to act in strengthening the role of females in the field of employment.
The first working paper analyses the Egyptian situation and shows that , although the Egyptian constitution states clearly that all citizens are equal regardless of their religion, sex and origin, in practice the gender gap is portrayed in all levels of social engagement, starting from the first years of education and ongoing to the workforce. In a World Economic Forum study conducted in 2005, Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap, Egypt was ranked at the bottom of the 58 countries under consideration in all five areas of analysis which included economic participation, economic opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and well-being.
As the working paper shows, the gender inequality in Egypt is portrayed in all levels of public life, starting from the first years of school. While most Egyptian kids are likely to attend school for a period of time, however, economic conditions prevent some parents from providing education to some or all of their children. When faced with the decision of which child to send to school, the persistent traditions and costumes that view men as the bread-winners and women as child-bearers make the choice, reflecting in the low female enrollment rates in secondary education. As well, early marriages play a role in restricting the females’ education levels.
However, when it comes to higher education, the paper reveals that females have superior rates of enrollment than men, traced probably to the fact that males have easier access to job opportunities, not having to work as hard to secure an employment. The choice of fields of studies reflect yet another gender division, while some areas are generally dominated by men, such as sciences and engineering, women chose the traditionally viewed girl-appropriate studies such as arts, nursing or humanities.
Attaining an education and earning a certificate is not necessarily portrayed in the workforce, as said before, males have much easier access to job positions than females. Other than the fact that they are viewed as more qualified and competent for work, also, employers tend to avoid hiring women to evade paying for their social insurance contribution and maternity rights. Moreover, the majority of women occupy unskilled, low-waged jobs with few only attaining higher positions. The imbalance between the professional positions of men and women is viewed in most job fields, including tourism and ICT.
Being two continuously developing sectors that are important financial resources for Egypt and providers of an increasing number of work opportunities for job seekers, tourism and ICT were the focus of this ETF study of young females (15 years old to 29 years old). Tourism is considered one of the most money-generating fields in Egypt, continuously witnessing the opening of new businesses, encouraging foreign exchange earnings, and playing a role in supporting other sectors of services and activities. In addition, the tourism sector provides many work opportunities for graduates. As well, the ICT sector has experienced an immense development of itself in the last years with the increase of the number of related companies to around 2100 businesses in 2007. With this boom, it seems that an employees’ shortage is in the horizon with the lack of almost 40, 9% of the needed workers. Hence comes the necessity to fill in the gaps of both the shortage of employees and the gender inequality by promoting education and training related to these fields among women and easing their access to related job positions that they are qualified for.
Although females’ participation in the educational systems and the work force have witnessed several improvements in the past years in Egypt, however, a large gender gap is still persistent and needs to be addressed. Policy analysis should be carefully conducted to promote equal access to education and productive resources, and to facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life for women. Women and work in Egypt