Speaking to Al-Ahram daily newspaper, Abu Bakr Al Guindy, head of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), estimated the poverty line at LE700 per family.
"The poverty line per person in Egypt is LE185 ($32 dollars) per month, which makes it LE700 ($120 dollars) for a family of 4 persons," stated Al Guindy on Monday.
The figures are based on 2009 prices, and are LE300 above the minimum wage that the government announced it would set a month ago. Al Guindy is also a member of the National Council for Wages (NCW).
The government had to modify the minimum wage to LE400, abiding by a ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court issued in late October. The decision was opposed by the Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (EFTU), activists and many economists who pleaded for higher pay.
Samir Radwan, an advisor to the NCW and former adviser to the International Labor Organization's (ILO) director general, also estimated the minimum wage at a little under LE700. “That’s the method that the ILO adopts. I saw many countries adopting it,” says Radwan.
In his interview with Al-Ahram Al-Guindy also defended the LE400 minimum wage. He said the minimum wage applies to workers in private sector only and new entrants to the labor market, especially illiterates and unqualified workers between the ages of 18 and 20.
“The objective is to reach a balance in the labor market, to tackle unemployment. Setting up a high minimum wage can drive businessmen to cut their labor force,” said Al-Guindy.
Excluding public sector employees from the new minimum wage resulted in a lot of criticism of the government. Minister of Economic Development Othman Mohamed Othman defended the government's position by stating that all public servants receive more than LE400 a month. Many government employees that have worked in the public sector for years, however, have voiced their claims that the minister's statements are blatantly false.
The legal battle between the government and activists has yet to cease. The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights has sued the government following the NCW's decision to fix the minimum wage at LE400, a figure below the poverty line, and excluding public employees from receiving it.
The poverty rate reached 21.6% in 2009/2010 up from 19.6% in 2004/2005.