Egypt labor ministry tackles unemployment, minimum wage and syndical pluralism

Marwa Hussein, Monday 14 Mar 2011

Egypt's new government announces a number of reforms on issues related to labor rights, with further measures to be taken soon

Egypt's new government announces a number of reforms on issues related to labor rights, with further measures to be taken soon (Photo: Ahram)

Many long-ignored labor rights will soon be recognized. “The main concerns for young are unemployment and wages” said minister of finance Samir Radwan. “Unemployment hits the youth strongly; 66 per cent of unemployed are young,” added the minister in a press conference attended by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia and the new minister of manpower Ahmed Hassan Al-Borai.

To help reduce unemployment in the most populated arab country Al-Borai announced Egypt will stop issuing work permits for foreigners for jobs that can be done by locals. “This is legitimate and not against international conventions. Jobs that require three to six months training are reserved for Egyptians. Those are usually manual jobs. Instead of importing workers we do the training” explained the minister who said he was shocked to discover that 30 per cent of the workers in Egypt were foreigners while, according to the law, institutions are only allowed to have 10 per cent of their workforce be foreign workers.

The two ministers also promised aid for the unemployed: “In the case of people who were benefiting from social insurance before losing their job, it’s easy to identify them and to know their situation. We are studying how to regulate this for people without social insurance,” said Radwan.

Minimum wage will also be fixed in three to six months, according to a government announcement made two days ago.

The minister of manpower also declared two days ago that the right to create syndicates will be granted to everybody. “We don’t need a national law for this, we ratified an international labor convention that grants this right, but if people will feel more assured by promulgating a new law, it’s not a problem, real independent syndical laws are very simple and are formed just by 14 to 16 articles,” assured the minister, an expert in labor relations, explaining that syndicates as independent units should fix their internal regulation.

The role of the ILO should be an advisory one. “We are fully committed at the ILO to be part of the transformation process in Egypt. We are prepared to do capacity building to help Egyptians establishing a new system”, said Juan Somavia. As a consequence of the undertaken reforms, the ILO director general expects Egypt to be removed from the list of countries not applying the ILO conventions that they ratified properly.

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