Youth Exclusion in Egypt: In Search of "Second Chances"
12 Dec 2007, Ragui Assaad and Ghada Barsoum
Egypt is at a stage in its demographic transition with a marked “youth bulge,” a period in which the proportion of youth in the population is increasing significantly compared to other age groups. Ragui Assaad and Ghada Barsoum look closely at youth in Egypt with the lens of exclusion as a guiding conceptual framework. The crux of the exclusion framework is that while some experience a successful transition to jobs, financial stability and personal independence with the ability to form families of their own; others experience unemployment; end up with dead-end low-paying jobs, and defer forming families due to the high financial costs of this important life transition in Egypt.
With Egypt’s economic revival, which began in 2004, there has been a notable improvement in labor market conditions. However, the youth continue to be a most disadvantaged group in terms of higher rates of unemployment, lower earnings, and limited job security and stability, with the majority of new entrants finding jobs within the informal economy. The youth also experience a virtual devaluation of their education credentials compared to earlier cohort. Work opportunities are inter-related with the other dimensions of youth exclusion: education and learning; potentials for forming families and channels for exercising citizenship. Exclusion is a cumulative process, with each of these life transitions having an overlapping impact on the others.
This study also shows that youth exclusion is highly gendered. While female school enrollment rates have increased in the past few decades; there remains a significant minority of girls deprived of schooling, particularly in rural Upper Egypt. Similarly, while labor market conditions have improved for most groups, recent analysis shows some alarming trends in female employment. Many out-of-school young women aged 15-29 are economically inactive and a significant proportion of those who are economically active are unpaid family workers. Young women are also four times as likely to be unemployed as young men.
Editorial Correction: Please note that in Figure 2-2 (pg 17), there is an error in the legend. The black triangles should read "Public Sector Employment," and the black squares should read "Formal Private Wage Employment."