The number of people living under the poverty line in Egypt has increased to 32.5 per cent of the population compared to 27.8 per cent in 2015, according to the Income, Spending and Consumption 2017/2018 survey conducted by the state statistics body CAPMAS.
The poverty line in Egypt, as calculated by the survey, comes in at LE8,827 per year, equivalent to LE735.5 per month, compared to LE 482 per month in the previous survey in 2015.
The poverty line refers to the minimum income at which an individual can meet his basic needs. It is different from one region to another in Egypt, due to differences in the cost of living. An increase in the poverty rate had been expected in the light of the devaluation of the pound and the lifting of fuel subsidies that together have pushed inflation levels to record highs.
“Had it not been for the social-protection programmes implemented by the government over recent years, the poverty rate would have risen much higher,” Hala El-Saeed, the minister of planning, said at a press conference in Cairo.
“Egypt has gone through an exceptional period, but the social-protection programmes have contributed to the reduction of poverty,” she added.
The poorest 10 per cent of the population receive 28 per cent of the cash-subsidy programmes Takaful and Karama. Seventy per cent of the funds allocated to the two programmes are channelled to the poorest 40 per cent, El-Saeed said. She added that 86 per cent of the funds for the programmes were allocated to the three poorest governorates in Upper Egypt.
At the press conference, head of CAPMAS Khairat Barakat said that the study was based on the patterns of spending and consumption of 26,000 families nationwide. CAPMAS personnel had visited them eight times over the last two years in a survey that is the 13th since the series was launched in 1958/1959. The survey used to come out every five years, but this was changed to every two years in 2008/2009. The last survey was conducted in 2015/2016.
El-Saeed said that both the positive and negative results of the survey had to be taken into account, especially indicators of the average consumption of Egyptian families and the relative distribution of expenditure on items such as food, drink, housing, education, and healthcare, as well as the difference in spending and consumption patterns between rural and urban areas.
She said that the government was keen to study poverty numbers not only as absolute figures but also in a multidimensional way that examined quality of life as measured by access to education and health services and the availability of quality housing.
Assiut in Upper Egypt is Egypt’s poorest governorate, with 66.5 per cent of its population living below the poverty line. Sohag comes in second with 59 per cent, followed by Minya and Qena at 54 and 41 per cent, respectively. The governorates of Port Said, Gharbiya and Damietta are the richest in Egypt.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 August, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Poverty rate increases