Skills not needed: Egypt's labour market struggles to absorb university graduates

Muhammed Khalid , Saturday 14 Oct 2023

A glut of educated graduates, many in fields with few job opportunities, are proving difficult for the Egyptian labour market to employ.

Egyptian young people attending a job fair in Cairo. Jobzella.
Egyptian young people attending a job fair in Cairo. Jobzella.


On a sunny morning in Cairo, Ali, a fresh university graduate, woke up dizzy due to lack of sleep from overthinking - not typical at his age.

He leaves home to attend a downtown job fair with little hope, but some determination inspired by a motivational speech by Steve Jobs he listened to on the internet yesterday.

In Egypt, 543,800 students graduate from university annually, entering a labour force of over 30 million, according to 2023 official statistics.

Young Egyptians (aged 18-29) account for a fifth of the national population and 39.2 per cent of the total labour force in 2022; a labour force unable to immediately provide appropriate jobs for all graduates.

The gap between skills and qualifications acquired in education and skills needed in the job market was highlighted by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi himself in September.

El-Sisi stressed that the job market does not need a large number of students graduating from faculties such as law, commerce, and humanities each year.

"The job opportunities for many graduates in certain majors are non-existent or limited, while the job market inside and outside Egypt needs hundreds of thousands of people in the field of digitization," he said.

Agreeing with the president, Mo'men El-Attar, Business Development Manager at Tawzef for Recruitment and HR Consultancy, said that the top jobs in the market are in the digital and tech sectors.

"Although the top-requested vacancy by all sectors is usually sales rep or business development specialist/executive, twice during the past 10 years digital marketer (between 2016-2019) and software developer (2020-2023) took the first place on the podium," El-Attar noted.

He highlighted that since the beginning of 2023, the top three jobs are software or web developer, and business development specialist, followed by the human resources and finance jobs.

El-Attar added that some remote jobs are currently in high demand including data and business analysis, graphics and 3D design, video editing, and AI-related positions.

Egypt has been paying more attention to digitization in recent years. The country recently invested EGP 50 billion ($1.62 billion) in digital transformation projects and $600 million in developing its network of underwater internet cables, according to Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat.

On another front, El-Attar discussed a huge drop in engineering jobs in Egypt, especially in the oil and gas and construction sectors. However, he said that there is a high demand for Egyptians to fill these roles in the Gulf market.

Top and least-paid jobs


According to Tawzef's data, the highest-paid jobs are in the renewable energy sector with an average monthly salary of EGP 30,000, and software development at an average of EGP 25,000.

The Egyptian renewable energy market is expected to grow from 6.69 gigawatts in 2023 to 9.87 gigawatts by 2028, at a compound annual growth rate of 8.09 percent during the forecast period (2023-2028), according to Mordor Intelligence.

The country's National Climate Strategy 2050 seeks to lower carbon emissions by utilizing alternative energy forms and renewable energy sources.

Egypt has signed numerous Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with international entities in the past year to encourage foreign investment in green hydrogen and establish itself as a hub for hydrogen production.

As for least paid jobs, El-Attar said that they are local call centre agents (average EGP 4,000), local outdoor sales (avg. EGP 3,500), delivery agents (avg. EGP 4,000), and security (avg. EGP 3,000).


A glimpse into a challenging future

The "echo generation," born during a baby boom, will start entering the labour market between 2025 and 2035. This influx will significantly increase both the number of people entering the workforce and the growth rate of the labour force, according to a study by Ragui Assaad, Egyptian Professor of Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

The study predicted that the annual increase in Egypt’s workforce will grow from under 600,000 a year in 2020-2025 to 800,000 a year from 2025 to 2035.

The echo generation refers to the children of the previous "youth bulge" generation, which emerged due to a decrease in infant and child mortality rates in the 1980s, all while fertility rates remained high. The children of this youth bulge generation were born from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s.

“Given the gradual rise in educational attainment in Egypt in recent years, it is projected that more than two-thirds of labour market entrants in 2030 will have achieved at least secondary education. It is well established in Egypt that unemployment rates are usually highest for those with secondary education and above, resulting in further upward pressure on unemployment,” the study said.

As a remedy to the challenges ahead, Assaad recommends that the government should accelerate the annual growth rate to 7 percent to create enough jobs to maintain unemployment rates at current levels.

He also recommended that the government prioritize the creation of better employment opportunities tailored to educated workers, particularly emphasizing opportunities for educated young women.

Egypt’s unemployment rate is expected to decline from 7.3 percent in 2022 to 7.1 percent in 2023 before increasing to 7.5 percent in 2023 and 7.5 percent in 2024, according to the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) World Economic Outlook report published in October 2023.

In October, the World Bank and the IMF updated their forecasts for Egypt’s real GDP growth in 2023 to 4.2 percent. For 2024, the WB and the IMF downgraded the country's growth forecasts to 3.7 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. 

Egypt reported 2.169 million unemployed individuals in the second quarter of 2023, comprising seven percent of the total workforce, according to a report from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).

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