Participants in the National Dialogue call for more social protections amid soaring inflation

Amr Kandil , Tuesday 16 May 2023

During Tuesday's session of the National Dialogue, the representatives of various political forces called for expanding the social protection umbrealla and enhancing protection programmes to support the needy amid soaring inflation due to the economic global crisis.

National Dialogue

The National Dialogue held on Tuesday the first session of its economic track under the title “social protection programmes: the current situation and the new developments”.

During the session, a number of representatives focused on the need to ensure that the state’s social protection support is delivered to those in need.

They also called for including the vulnerable categories, including irregular workers, in the social protection programmes.

Supporting irregular workers

“Around 70 percent of the workforce is in the unofficial sector,” Senate member Ehab El-Kharrat, a leading figure of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party said, adding that “the social protection umbrella should extend to include such workers.”

MP Rawya Mokhtar, of the Reform and Development Party, recommended establishing a permanent and independent fund that would secure insurance and pensions to irregular workers.

Mokhtar also called for launching a free registration initiative that includes a financing and tax exemption package.

This package should support workshops and unregistered small factories in order to further integrate the unofficial workforce into the official sector.

For her part, Assistant Minister of Social Solidarity for Protection and Social Safety Nets Mervat Sabreen said that the ministry is working assiduously to include some categories into the social protection system, including irregular workers.

She added that the new Social Insurance and Pensions Law supports the rights of irregular workers.

For her part, member of the National Dialogue’s board of trustees Fatma El-Sayed Ahmed said that the state has made tremendous efforts to support the unofficial work sector by launching the Aman Certificate (Security Certificate) in 2019.  

Empowering marginalized groups

Ahmed also called for drafting a law that defends women’s rights in the workplace, so that they have equal chances of assuming leadership positions.

Moreover, she said that pensioners should enjoy special privileges in public transportation and should have their own hospitals.  

In response to these remarks, Mervat Sabreen said that the state is working on further empowerment of women, who constitute only 15 percent of the workforce in Egypt.

Gamal Fouad, leader of the Human Rights and Citizenship Party, said that youths, who constitute 65 percent of the Egyptian population, need empowerment through technical education curriculums that match the needs of the labour market.

Fouad also stressed that the state should pay further attention to small and micro projects and should remove the obstacles facing them.

MP Hend Hazem, a member of the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan (Future of a Nation) Party, hailed the political leadership’s measures to empower people with disabilities over the past years, after decades of marginalization.

Enhancing social protection

The participants in the session hailed the state’s initiatives to support the needy, including cash transfer programme Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity) and the Decent Life initiative.     

However, some have argued that the state’s efforts in this regard have been insufficient.

Thoraya Abdel-Gawad, assistant rapporteur of the dialogue’s Social Justice Committee, stated that while acknowledging the achievements in social protection, the government had to take even more measures.

“Despite what has been achieved so far regarding social protection and the appreciated efforts and unprecedented measures … I believe that these measures are not enough,” Abdel-Gawad said.

Senate member Ehab El-Kharrat highlighted the state’s effort to increase pensions this year. However, he said that pensions and minimum wages should be increased and  determined based on purchasing power.

El-Kharrat also called for a “transparent democratic reform” to tackle the issues of favoritism and corruption in localities, in order to ensure that the state’s social support reaches those in need.

Moreover, he stressed the need for allocating part of the budget of the Decent Life initiative to support individuals.

“How can we benefit from schools if a teacher gets paid EGP 4,000 [monthly] after 10 years of work,” El-Kharrat said, adding that “teachers and doctors are in need of social protection now.”

For her part, social solidarity minister’s assistant Mervat Sabreen said that the government currently spends EGP 529 billion on social protection, which marks a 131 percent increase in expenditure since 2014.

“Egypt is one of the highest spending countries on social protection in the Middle East and North Africa region,” noted Sabreen.

Mostaqbal Watan’s Hend Hazem hailed the state’s efforts in boosting social protection programmes.

She said that the government has increased support for social protection programmes several times including in the new state budget.

Facing overpopulation, obstacles

Many of the representatives addressed the problem of overpopulation as a major obstacle facing social protection and economic development.

“The terrifying population increase devours all economic growth rates,” Hend Hazim said.

She called for concerted efforts by all governmental and non-governmental institutions, as well as civil society groups, to face the dangers of the phenomenon.

Hazem also highlighted that it was necessary to face the phenomenon of slums as it undermines social justice, economic development and efforts to attract investments.

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