“I have been applying for jobs for the past two years without success,” said 25-year-old Rana who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in finance from the Faculty of Business Administration in Cairo in 2020.
Rana is searching for a job as an accountant or financial analyst at a bank or finance company.
She is not alone but is just one of around two million unemployed people in Egypt. While the country’s unemployment rate fell by 0.2 per cent during the fourth quarter of last year to 7.2 per cent, compared to 7.4 per cent in the third quarter of the same year, university graduates represented around 46 per cent of the unemployed, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).
Not only has the job market been affected by the economic conditions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, but also by the fallout from the war in Ukraine.
The industrial sector has been the most affected, according to a study by the Centre for Economic Studies (ECES), a Cairo think tank. A quarterly study called Demand in Egypt’s Labour Market said that the jobs market has not generated jobs at a steady rate, even if problems of unemployment are less severe for white-collar workers than for blue-collar workers.
Based on data released in January 2023, technicians, operators, and packaging workers in the manufacturing industries have also seen a decline in job opportunities.
The study said that the demand for all types of workers in the production and trade in cars and spare parts had declined, and particularly for auto mechanics and electricians. The news comes in parallel with the almost complete cessation of the import of new cars and the rise in the prices of used cars by up to 70 per cent in just one year, causing severe stagnation in the auto market.
While hiring in the industrial sector has been the weakest, according to the ECES, sales representatives have enjoyed higher employment rates among blue-collar workers, defined as those not working in an office environment.
“I haven’t found any marketing jobs to suit my training despite my applying for three jobs,” said 23-year-old Abdel-Rahman Naguib who graduated in 2022.
The companies he applied to offered him jobs that were not in his line of interest, one in the HR department and the other in sales. He chose to be a sales point advisor instead, as this job was offered to him by a multinational company.
The ECES study said that white-collar jobs, which include jobs such as marketing and advertising, are less in demand than they were before. Ahmed Dawoud, the head of the Data Analysis Unit at the ECES, said that this was because of the slowdown in production resulting from the dollar crunch in 2022.
There were fewer goods on the market and therefore fewer needs for advertising, he added.
“While certain sectors were badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, new opportunities in other fields like technology and digital marketing opened up,” said head of the Career and Development Office at Misr International University in Cairo Eman Al-Kholi.
“The traditional employment market was reshaped as a result.”
Al-Kholi said that new online opportunities had become available for many graduates in Egypt, with foreign companies based abroad eager to hire Egyptians to work from home as it is cheaper for them to pay wages in Egyptian pounds.
She added that it was important for those seeking online jobs to be fast learners and up to date in their field.
Some jobs were more in demand than they were five years ago, she said, such as content writers and creators and graphic designers. “As more start-ups are being established nowadays, jobs in these fields are more in demand, creating more job opportunities for many job-seekers from different backgrounds,” she said.
Even a pharmacy graduate can work as a content writer, she said, writing articles related to the medical and pharmacy fields.
“The present economic conditions are making it difficult for me to achieve my dream or build the career path I want,” said 23-year-old Nadine Tarek, who graduated in 2022.
“I need a salary to cover day-to-day expenses amid the present soaring prices.”
Tarek now works in the HR department of a private school as she could not find a suitable marketing job that meets her specialisation. The school covers her transportation expenses, giving her the chance to save some of her salary.
“Because certain majors provide few career options, it’s crucial that graduates are adaptable and can take up other occupations until they find what they are looking for,” Al-Kholi said.
She said that the Faculty of Commerce graduates thousands of graduates each year, all of them having the same qualifications. As a result, each graduate needs to highlight the unique skills they can offer a company.
Undergraduates and fresh graduates should boost their skills through summer training, language learning, extra courses, attending seminars, and additional university projects, she said.
The ECES study also said that recent graduates from intermediate education establishments or others that do not have strong skills could have a more difficult time finding a job during the present economic crisis.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly