Young women in Egypt face substantial inequalities in job opportunities and wages. In this report, the authors examine issues (such as childcare costs, negative attitudes, and sexual harassment) that constrain women's employment and could hinder improvement of Egypt's economic outlook. The authors also consider initiatives that are underway to address these challenges and present policy considerations to build on these efforts.
Barriers to Employment That Women Face in Egypt
Policy Challenges and Considerations
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معوقات العمل التي تواجه النساء في جمهورية مصر العربية
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- What are the overall trends in women's participation in the labor force?
- What are the key constraints women face in entering the labor force and securing employment?
- What governmental and nongovernmental efforts are underway to promote opportunities and address barriers to female employment?
- What are some policy considerations that can build on current efforts to economically empower young women?
Young women in Egypt face substantial inequalities in the labor market in terms of employment opportunities and wages. Labor force participation of young women is low and unemployment is high. Although education disparities between Egyptian women and men have diminished, women continue to earn less than men and face numerous challenges in finding employment. Furthermore, far more young women than young men are not in employment, education, or training. These indicators suggest that young Egyptian women seeking work face persistent structural challenges in securing employment. Key obstacles include the high cost of childcare, the expectation that women carry out the majority of household responsibilities, negative attitudes toward women in the workplace, lack of mobility, legal barriers, persistent wage gaps, sexual harassment in the workplace, and poor enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
The authors of this report assert that women's vastly disproportionate struggles to contribute economically are likely to seriously impede improvement of Egypt's economic outlook. Society is not fully reaping the rewards of its investments in human capital, as evidenced by the combination of women's growing educational attainment and their low employment. The authors point out that Egypt has allocated resources to expand education access, but has not provided a major beneficiary of this expanded access the opportunity to fully contribute to the country's growth and development.
In this report, the authors examine the issues that are constraining young women in Egypt in terms of labor force participation and employment, consider governmental and nongovernmental initiatives that are underway to address these issues, and present policy considerations that can build on current efforts to help economically empower young women.
Young women in Egypt face many obstacles in terms of labor force participation and employment, but steps can be taken to address these problems
- Despite modest economic growth, several forces have exerted a negative effect on employment growth. These issues include a decline in public-sector jobs and the limited growth of formal private-sector jobs to offset that decline, as well as poor preparation of Egyptian graduates for available formal private-sector jobs. The decline of public-sector jobs disproportionately affects women, especially more-educated women.
- For women in Egypt—and young women in particular—the labor force participation rate has remained persistently low and unemployment has remained high. In addition, a large share of young women are not in employment, education, or training.
- Large gains in educational attainment among women, including rates of achievement and completion at every level of education that are higher than those among men, have not been matched with gains in the workplace.
- Key barriers faced by women include assuming a disproportionate share of childcare and household responsibilities that are difficult to reconcile with working hours; the high cost of childcare; poor working conditions in the growing informal private sector; poor enforcement of laws barring discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and in public spaces, including public transportation; and a persistently high wage gap compared with men in the private sector.
- Women's vastly disproportionate struggles to contribute economically are likely to seriously impede progress toward Egypt's objective of improving its economic outlook.
- To take advantage of investments in women's education and anticipate pressures on the labor market that would likely develop as Egypt's economy grows, Egyptian officials can take steps now to set the country up to effectively mobilize its full labor force in the future.
- Lessons from countries in the region and elsewhere suggest that maternity leave could be funded through a payroll tax to which all employees contribute, so that an individual firm's cost of maternity leave is not tied to the number of women it hires.
- High-quality early childhood education could be expanded and childcare could be subsidized.
- Subsidized, women-only transportation options could be provided to give women a safe, reliable means of getting to work.
- Existing laws to address gender discrimination, mobility restrictions, and sexual harassment prevention policies and programs could be reformed, and mechanisms to implement these laws could be introduced.
- Laws that constrain women from obtaining formal documentation, traveling, or conducting other independent activities could be reformed.
- Alternative models could be considered for vocational education that prepares future graduates in skills that are in demand.
- Policies could be pursued to encourage formalization of jobs in the private sector and, consequently, firm growth. These policies might include streamlining government processes that deal with businesses, including licensing; simplifying and modernizing regulatory requirements; improving access to capital and finance; and investing in infrastructure.
- Investments could be made in infrastructure to improve and expand access to transportation, electricity, and broadband internet.
- Policies could be pursued to diversify the Egyptian economy, improve the investment climate, and remove hurdles to private-sector growth.
- Mechanisms, such as the pooling of resources, could be introduced to improve coordination across ministries that target the same populations.
- National initiatives, such as public service announcements and marketing campaigns, could communicate the value of women working in various sectors to give women the opportunity to fully contribute to the country's continued economic growth and development.
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This research was funded by the generous contributions of the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy (CMEPP) Advisory Board and conducted within the Center for Middle East Public Policy, part of International Programs at the RAND Corporation.
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