Working conditions and social welfare in Cairo (Egypt)

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Working in Cairo if you are a foreigner

Nowadays, Cairo has a growing economy and many big companies are settled there. In order to get a job, it is necessary to contact local firms which are currently recruiting. As the main Egyptian big city, Cairo is an international economic city. Firms which settled in the city have turned into buoyant economic sectors such as chemistry and aeronautics sectors. These sectors are nationally and internationally recruiting. In spite of strong constraints regarding foreign workers’ hiring, firms are recruiting skilled workers from abroad.

Cairo is one of the first industrialized city in northern Africa. Since the XIXth century, many companies have specialized in steel industry, textile industry and food processing and have settled in the city. New companies are focused on new sectors such as tourism, petrochemistry, electronics or aeronautics. Thus, these organizations are looking for skilled executives on the local and international working market. However, the Egyptian government imposes a maximum percentage of foreigners in companies, and it forbids foreigners to work in strategic sectors, such as customs and security services.

Working in Cairo if you are Egyptian… and a day labourer

During the 1970s, partly due to the economic openness, the workers’ statute got worse. From the revolution on the 25th January 2011, day labourers started to claim their rights loudly and clearly, by creating independent trade unions to defend themselves.

National and International labour law, in particular the one from 1979 concerning social insurance, provides that even non declared workers have a right to benefit from a social insurance called « national insurance ».

Sami Naguib, a state employee for social insurance, explains that the law number 12 from 2003 intends to organize financial and administrative regulations through the settlement of 28 offices responsible for day labourers protection in the whole Egypt. Ahmad Al-Borai (minister in charge for social solidarity) although thinks that day labourers’ rights are not observed. They work with no protection system and many regulations are not observed, for instance, wages or working hours.

The Egyptian government eventually made up its mind to grant a social insurance for undeclared workers. That category includes farmers, travelling sellers, fishermen, day labourers and concierges. The latter are not registered at the Ministry of employment and they don’t benefit from any advantage. The government has now decided to take over this category, which has been marginalised for a long time.

« The first step is to take a census of them by working out in the field to update the information base concerning day labourers before implementing this social insurance project », states Kamel Abou Aite, the minister of employment.

« Since there were no regulations for that part of the population, its working conditions worsened and employers were prone to exploit these people without ensuring them any safety », tells Mohamed Abdel Qader, who founded the independent day labourer trade union. That association specifically defends rights of this irregular workforce.

According to the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) studies, undeclared workers are standing for 60% to 80% of the labour market. Providing them with a social insurance has become necessary, particularly because of their variable wages. « Providing people from this category with a protection is a first step towards social justice » considers the minister of employment, who took part in worker demonstrations himself.

The new Constitution has to consider social justice through concrete texts that guarantee each citizen (including farmers, workers and marginalised people) a right to have accommodation, a job, a right to stay healthy…  that is what must be underlined in the Constitution, according to Hossam Moenes, a member of the current working-class party.

He is sure enough that the Constitution is the first step through social justice and should obligate the state to meet all economic and social claims from the citizens.

N.B : The minimum monthly gross salary of an Egyptian is 1200 EGP, standing for 169 $ / 136 €


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