Gender Wage Gap in EgyptEgypt is a country with a rich history and diverse culture. Unfortunately, it holds the title of having the highest gender wage gap. The Global Gender Gap Report 2022, issued by the World Economic Forum, positions Egypt at 129th among the 149 countries evaluated in the 2022 index. Egypt’s wage disparity is the highest with a 3.84 ratio, implying that men earn four times more than women in relation to GDP per capita. The World Bank further highlights gender inequality in the labor market, with women representing only 18% of the total workforce in Egypt in 2022.

Consequences and Economic Impact on the Egyptian Economy

Social context influences labor market competition. In Egypt, women’s limited mobility, childcare responsibilities and masculine work environments hinder their job prospects and contribute to lower pay. The gender wage gap in Egypt has significant consequences on society and the economy. The wage gap exposes discriminatory practices in employment and wages, where women face disadvantages compared to men in earning income.

Furthermore, the World Bank (2021) reported that if female participation in the workforce increased, Egypt’s GDP could potentially grow by 34%. This demonstrates the untapped potential of women’s economic contributions. Women’s active involvement in the financial sector, particularly in executive and board positions, enhances the resilience and stability of the country. According to the World Bank, achieving Egypt’s Vision 2030 requires addressing the underrepresentation of women, especially at senior leadership levels.

Possible Solutions from a Governmental Aspect

The Egyptian National Council for Women (NCW) operates as an independent women’s machinery. The President of the Republic of Egypt affiliates the council, which ensures equal treatment of Egyptian women in political, economic, social and cultural aspects. Additionally, the NCW actively plans for women’s advancement. The NCW actively addresses the gender wage gap and promotes gender equality in the labor market. Furthermore, the NCW introduces Egypt’s Vision 2030, aligning it with the Sustainable Development Strategy to construct a fair and equal society.

In its report to the United Nations, the NCW outlined several measures, including the establishment of a gender-sensitive budgeting system and the development of an action plan to increase women’s representation in decision-making positions. Through entrepreneurship programs, the NCW economically empowered Egyptian women. In April 2022, the Shakia Governate program trained 136,000 women in project management, planning, marketing and entrepreneurship concepts, thereby facilitating networking and providing access to valuable services.

The NCW’s efforts to promote women’s empowerment in Egypt yielded visible progress. From 2015 to 2019, the unemployment rate for females decreased from 12.8% to 7.9%. Additionally, Egypt joined the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) in 2018, committing to take action to close the gender pay gap by implementing policies, sharing knowledge and mobilizing resources.

Efforts from NGOs and International Organizations

Several international and non-governmental organizations have partnered with Egypt to address the gender wage gap and promote women’s economic empowerment. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working with the Egyptian government to strengthen women’s participation in the economy by supporting policies and programs that promote gender equality, such as microfinance initiatives and vocational training for women.

USAID empowers women to close the gender wage gap in Egypt by supporting their entrepreneurial ventures. Through initiatives like the Women Entrepreneurs Network and Tiye Angels, 600 successful women-led businesses have emerged since 2017. Additionally, USAID’s Business Development Service Centers have strengthened 650 women-owned micro-enterprises. The Association for Women’s Total Advancement and Development (ATWAD) is another organization working to empower Egyptian women economically. ATWAD provides training, advocacy and capacity building for women to improve their access to resources and opportunities.

Lastly, ABAAD, a regional NGO, aims to achieve gender equality in the Middle East and North Africa region. ABAAD works in Egypt to promote equal opportunities for women in the labor market and to eliminate gender-based violence, which is a significant barrier to women’s economic participation.

Looking Ahead

Efforts to address the gender wage gap and promote women’s economic empowerment in Egypt are gaining momentum. Initiatives led by the Egyptian National Council for Women, along with collaborations with international organizations like USAID and ABAAD, are making a difference. Progress has been seen in reducing female unemployment rates and increasing women’s representation in decision-making positions. With continued commitment and support, Egypt is on the path towards achieving greater gender equality, unlocking the untapped potential of women and fostering a fair and inclusive society.

– Tanya Hamad
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in EgyptEgypt currently faces a significant child marriage issue. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports indicate that nearly 17% of girls marry before turning 18. Child marriage in Egypt pervades the country, infringing on young girls’ rights and adversely affecting their health, education and future opportunities.

Child Protection Law in Egypt and Loopholes in the Legal Age of Marriage

The Persons and Family Law No. 126 of 2008 mandates a legal marriage age of at least 18 years old for both men and women. Unfortunately, since there are no criminal penalties for families conducting child marriages through religious ceremonies, girls in rural areas become three times more likely to marry before 18.

Some religious and cultural traditions support early marriage, legally registering the marriage only when the bride turns 18. Underage girls may also enter unofficial customary marriages called “urfi.

Risks and Consequences of Child Marriage

World Bank statistics show that 46 of every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 gave birth in Egypt in 2020. Early marriage often leads to girls dropping out of school, which limits their future opportunities and increases their vulnerability to poverty. Furthermore, they are more likely to experience complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Government Efforts to Ban Child Marriage in Egypt

The Egyptian government has committed to eliminating child marriage in Egypt by 2030, aligning with the Sustainable Development Goal target 5.3. Various actions are in progress, including the establishment of Equal Opportunities Units within ministries, the launch of initiatives to increase women’s participation in the economy and partnerships with the United Nations (U.N.) agencies for women’s empowerment.

The Egyptian government has launched a comprehensive National Strategy for the Empowerment of Women 2030 aimed at empowering women across various spheres of life, focusing on six key pillars. In addition to this, the government has also endorsed Egypt’s National Strategy for the Prevention of Early Marriage 2015-2020, demonstrating its commitment to promoting the rights of women in the country. Since 2019, the Egyptian government has been making recommendations to prevent child marriage in Egypt and intensify awareness-raising campaigns.

Local and International Non-Governmental Organizations Efforts

Organizations such as the Tadwein Center for Gender Studies and Plan International work to address the root causes of child marriage, like poverty and lack of access to education. The Tadwein Center for Gender Studies, established in 2014, promotes gender awareness, empowers women and fights against violence against women and girls in Egypt. The center initiated the #HerDreamIsMoreImportant social media campaign in 2020, addressing child marriage consequences. The campaign started during the global event Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

Plan International, working in Egypt since 1981, aims to improve children’s lives through education and gender equity. Its program offers psychosocial support to over 4,000 vulnerable Syrian refugee and Egyptian children, providing safe spaces and fostering resilience. This approach empowers girls to resist early marriage and raises community awareness about gender equality and children’s rights.

Declining Rates of Child Marriage in Egypt

UNICEF statistics show a decline in child marriage rates, as the percentage of women marrying before the age of 15 dropped from 3.9% in 2000 to 2.0% in 2014. Various factors contribute to this positive trend, including government partnerships with the National Council for Women and U.N. Women Egypt Country Office and prioritizing the 2030 National Women’s Empowerment Strategy.

Consequently, women’s unemployment rate dropped from 21.7% in 2019 to 17.7% in 2020. Furthermore, educated girls with improved societal status marry later, contributing to inclusive economic development.

In the Works for Egypt

The Association of the Egyptian Female Lawyers launched a campaign called #1000جمعية#, or #1000Associations#, to urge President Abd El Fattah El Sisi and parliamentarians to criminalize child marriage in Egypt. While the Egyptian government has achieved progress in fighting child marriage, implementing further action to strengthen enforcement and tackle the root causes of this harmful practice could deliver more desired results. With the continued commitment of the Egyptian government, NGOs and international partners, there is hope for a future that is free of child marriage.

– Tanya Hamad
Photo: Flickr