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Egyptians spending more on food and housing, less on education: Survey

Latest official figures show almost half of Egyptians are finding it hard to make ends meet on a monthly basis, spending more than two thirds of their income on food and housing

Ahram Online, Monday 5 Dec 2011
Poverty
Egyptians spend more on food than their counterparts in many low and middle income countries (Photo: AP)
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Nearly half of Egyptian households still find themselves without enough money to cover their basic needs although the situation has broadly improved in recent years, results from an official survey showed on Sunday.

A household survey by Egypt’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) said 44 per cent of subjects interviewed in 2010 believed their income insufficient to meet rising costs of food and housing.

Though still high, the figures indicate a gradual improvement in economic confidence among Egyptian households in the three years to 2010.

The surveys were completed before January’s uprising which has been followed by a fresh wave of economic turmoil.

In 2008, 59 per cent of families said their income was insufficient; a figure that fell to 52 per cent in 2009. The fall may be partly attributed to rises and falls in inflation which reached 17 per cent in the 2008/9 financial year, then fell to 11.3 per cent over the following two years.

The IDSC report -- entitled 'Characteristics of Egyptian Family Spending' – also showed that Egyptians spend the majority of their incomes on food and housing at the expense of education and leisure.

The average monthly spending of an Egyptian family was LE1,465 ($244) in 2008/09, with food making up 44 per cent of total monthly consumption, a figure that is higher than other countries in the region.

In recent years, Syrians, for example, spent 42 per cent of their income on food while Turks spent 22 per cent

Despite such spending, Egypt scored 200 in the World Bank's depth of hunger indicator – a rating that points to a moderate deprivation of minimum food needs.

As family incomes increase, the proportion spent on food naturally falls.

Families with incomes of less than LE5,000 spend up to 54 per cent on food per year, versus 27.8 per cent for families earning above this figure.

Spending on housing is ranked second, after food consumption, and takes up an average of 18 per cent of income, according to the report.

The largest proportion of housing expenditure goes on rent, which makes up 68 per cent of the total, followed by utilities such as electricity.

Rent spending is relatively low due to rent controls and the prevalence of ownership.

A study by Salma Mansour, analyst with Citadel Capital, estimates that 68 per cent of Egypt's housing units are leased, with a large portion of them falling under the 'old rent' law which keeps rents constant at 1970's levels.  

Education spending lags far behind that on food and housing, making up just 3.4 per cent of total family outgoings. A percentage that has remained constant over the past few years. 

Such spending might partially explain Egypt's relatively low literacy rate, which saw a slow increase from 56 per cent in 1996 to 66 per cent in 2006, according to World Bank Data.

Despite this, 50 per cent of families polled said they had felt a significant increase in education costs, including paying for tuition and private lessons.

More than two thirds of parents with children enrolled in public education said they were paying less than LE100 per year for tuition and schoolbooks.

On the other hand, parents of the 38 per cent of students in private education were paying an annual LE2,000 to LE4,000 on the same items; a reflection of the vast gap in education in Egypt.

Spending on entertainment and culture came in last place, making up only 2.1 per cent of the average Egyptian household budget.

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