Egypt's businessmen all for a minimum wage but figure, time and mechanism not yet set

Ahram Online, Friday 5 Aug 2011

Ahmed El-Boraie, Egypt's labor minister, says the government will not unilaterally set minimum wages for Egypt’s private sector

Egyptian workers have anticipated a fair minimum wage legislation for a long time (photo: Reuters)

Egypt’s labour minister Ahmed El-Boraie said on Thursday that businessmen’s organisations have approved imposing a minimum wage after five meetings to discuss the subject but did not specify the names of the organisations referred to. During a seminar with the General Chambers of Commerce Federation (GCCF), El-Boraie pointed out, on the other hand, that the government will not make any unilateral decisions regarding a wage floor in Egypt’s private sector.

The minister said the goals of the revolution, which include liberty, democracy and social justice, should be achieved in the framework of a free-market economy. He conceded the importance of prioritising the welfare of workers, the vast majority of whom are impoverished, while developing the domestic economy and integrating it at the global level.

For his part, Ahmed El-Wakil, GCCF board director, demanded that the minimum wage should be set according to actual working hours, not in the form of a monthly lump sum – to encourage hard work. He also stipulated the gradual application of minimum wages taking into account the specific conditions and size of each industry, so that companies will not have to resort to labour cuts.

El-Wakil cited the example of the European Union, where minimum wage rate varies by country and financial sector, with some sectors granted exemptions due to the nature of their labour’s income flow. He concluded that the government should consider the competitiveness of the Egyptian private sector before enforcing any regulation that would raise costs.

In earlier statements El-Boarie had concurred with El-Wakil's demands, stating that the wage rate is likely to vary depending on the size and location of each firm.Speaking at the Cairo Business Forum, hosted by IMD business school, in June, the minister said that he had met with many business organisations and that there is a general consensus among businesses that LE700 is a fair minimum rate for the private sector.

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