Egypt

Labour Force

The labour force or economically active population of a country is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as those aged 15 and older who provide labour in the production of goods and services during a specified time period. It includes the employed and the unemployed, but excludes homemakers, unpaid caregivers or workers in the informal sector. The definition also mostly includes the armed forces and seasonal or part time workers.[1]

Estimates from the ILO indicate that Egypt’s working-age population (those over 15) increased by 43% between 2000 and 2016. Over the same period, the labour force, those either working or unemployed but looking for work, increased by 54%. As a result, the country’s labour force participation rate rose from 45.9% to 49.6% between 2000 and 2016. Nonetheless, less than half of Egypt’s working-age population was economically active in 2016. Over the same period, the unemployment rate also rose, from 9% in 2000 to 12% in 2016.

Table 5.1: Distribution of population over 15 by economic activity (2000–2016)

Indicator 2000 2005 2010 2014 2015 2016
Population over 15 (000s) 43,504 50,148 55,838 60,034 61,164 62,100
Labour force (000s) 19,960 23,985 27,426 29,574 30,242 30,787
Labour force participation rate (% of population over 15) 45.9 47.8 49.1 49.3 49.4 49.6
Unemployment rate (% of labour force) 9.0 11.2 9.0 13.2 12.8 12.0

Source: ILO, 2017[2]

Figure 5.1
Source: ILO, 2017[3]
Figure 5.1: The economically active population and total population aged 15–64 (1990–2015)

Egypt’s labour force participation rate of 49.6% in 2016 was on par with Morocco’s (49.3%) and slightly higher than the Northern African average of 48.3%. It was, however, lower than both Nigeria and South Africa’s rates of 56.4% and 5.3% and significantly lower than the sub-Saharan African average of 70.3%.

Table 5.2: Regional comparison: Labour force participation rate (2000–2016)

  2000 2005 2010 2014 2015 2016
Egypt 45.9 47.8 49.1 49.3 49.4 49.6
Morocco 53.2 51.7 49.7 49.1 49.2 49.3
Nigeria 56.0 54.9 55.6 56.2 56.3 56.4
South Africa 56.7 53.7 51.3 52.7 53.0 53.3
Northern Africa 47.7 47.7 47.8 48.0 48.2 48.3
Sub-Saharan Africa 69.8 69.7 69.9 70.1 70.2 70.3

Source: ILO, 2017[4]

Egypt’s extremely low female participation in the labour force explains the country’s low labour force participation rate overall. In 2000, the male labour force participation rate was 72.5% compared to the female rate of 19.6%. By 2016, the male rate had increased by 5% compared to a larger increase in the female rate of 17%. Nonetheless, the male labour force participation rate was 76.2% in 2016, and the female rate was still extremely low, at 22.9%. This suggests that only roughly one in five Egyptian women is economically active.

Table 5.3: Labour force participation rates by sex (2000–2016)

  2000 2005 2010 2014 2015 2016
Male 72.5 75.3 75.6 75.9 76.1 76.2
Female 19.6 20.5 22.7 22.6 22.8 22.9
Total 45.9 47.8 49.1 49.3 49.4 49.6

Source: ILO, 2017[5]

In 2013, 51% of the Egyptian adult population was inactive, where females (76%) had an inactivity rate three times greater than that of males (25%). The youth inactivity rate was 66% in 2013, markedly higher than the adult rate to the inactivity rate of young men was 52%, and a staggering 80% of young women were economically inactive.[6]

The high female inactivity rate is a result of marriage as married women are more likely to be inactive due to their family responsibilities. Also, research has found that women, especially educated women, find public sector jobs more appealing, and as employment in the public sector has decreased, many of them prefer inactivity to work in the private sector.[7]

Table 5.4: Inactivity rate in Egypt (2013)

Sex Inactivity rate Youth inactivity rate
Male 25% 52%
Female 76% 80%
Total 51% 66 %

Source: Ulandssekretariatet, 2015[8]

Annual estimates show that 87% of Egypt’s labour force (over 14 years) was employed in 2014, a minor increase from 86.8% in 2013. In 2014, 13% of the labour force was unemployed. Seventy-nine percent of those employed are male, and only 20.7% are female.[9]

Table 5.5: Annual estimates of the labour force by sex, % (2013 & 2014)

Economically active 2013 2014
Male Female Total Male Female Total
Employed 79.6 20.4 86.8 79.3 20.7 87.0
Unemployed 57.1 42.9 13.2 56.3 43.7 13.0

Source: CAPMAS, 2015[10]
Note: employed: population 15 years and older; unemployed: population 15–64 years

Figure 5.3

Source: CAPMAS, 2015[11]
Figure 5.2: Labour force, employed and unemployed by sex (2014)

Between 1998 and 2012, the share of labour force employed in the public sector dropped from 34% to 27.1%. By 2012, the majority of the labour force (40%) worked in the informal private sector. A further 13.5% worked in the formal private sector, 10.7% in agriculture (on farms) and 8.7% were unemployed.[12]

Table 5.6: Distribution of labour force aged 15–64 years by main sectors (%) (1998 & 2012)

Sector 1998 2012
Public 34.0 27.1
Formal private 13.0 13.5
Informal private 30.7 40.0
Farm 10.6 10.7
Unemployed 11.7 8.7

Source: World Bank, 2014[13]

Figure 5.3
Source: World Bank, 2014[14]
Figure 5.3: Distribution of labour force aged 15–64 years (2012)

Between 1990 and 2015, Egypt’s labour force increased by 77%, but employment in agriculture dropped slightly, according to figures from the African Development Bank (AfDB). As a result, the share of the country’s labour force employed in agriculture dropped from 39.7% in 1990 to 22.2% in 2015.[15]

Table 5.7: Distribution of labour force by agriculture or non-agriculture involvement (000s) (1990–2015)

Indicator 1990 2010 2014 2015
Labour force 16,353 25,970 28,365 28,942
Labour force in agriculture 6,495 6,620 6,487 6,437
Labour force in agriculture (as % of labour force) 39.7% 25.5% 22.9% 22.2%

Source: AfDB, 2016[16]

Educational attainment of the employed

Between 2008 and 2013, the share of the labour force with a primary education as its highest level of education decreased, while the share with a secondary or tertiary education as their highest level of education increased. In 2013, only 4.9% of the labour force had completed no education beyond primary schooling, and 37.5% had no higher education than secondary schooling. Interestingly, where 18.7% of the labour force had completed some form of tertiary education, the share of women with such qualifications (28.6%) was far higher than the share of men (15.7%).

Table 5.8: Highest level of education of the labour force 15 years and older by sex (2008 & 2013)

Level of education 2008 2013
Male Female Total Male Female Total
Primary 10.2 2.7 8.5 5.8 2.1 4.9
Secondary 37.2 37.4 37.2 38.1 35.6 37.5
Tertiary 14.7 24.6 16.9 15.7 28.6 18.7

Source: World Bank, 2016[17]

In 2014, of the total number of employed people, more than 60% were wage and salary workers, 13.6% were business owners, 13.6% were self-employed, and unpaid family workers accounted for 11.2%. The majority of males and the majority of females were wage and salary workers, followed by a higher percentage of self-employed males and a higher percentage of unpaid female family workers.[18]

Table 5.9: Estimates of employed population by employment status, % (2014)

Employment status Male Females Total
Wage and salary workers 63.5 51.0 60.9
Business owner 16.7 2.0 13.6
Self-employed 14.6 9.8 13.6
Unpaid family workers 5.2 37.3 11.9
Total (000s) 19,200 5,100 24,300

Source: CAPMAS, 2015[19]

Between 2006 and 2012, the share of employees in regular wage employment in the informal private sector declined from 17% to 15%, in the formal private sector the number increased slightly, from 9% to 11%. In 2012, the informal and formal private sectors accounted for 26% of employment. The public sector accounted for 25% of people employed, and a further 4% worked in state-owned enterprises.

In 2006, seasonal or intermittent wage workers accounted for 8% of the employed population. By 2012, this share had more than doubled to 17%. In 2008, employers accounted for 13% of employment, but the share of employers dropped to 10% in 2012.

Table 5.10: Distribution of formal and informal employment (2006 & 2012)

  2006 2012
Public sector 25% 25%
Public enterprises 5% 4%
Regular wage employment 
  Formal private 9% 11%
  Informal private 17% 15%
Irregular wage work (seasonal or intermittent) 8% 17%
Self-employment 
  Agriculture 2% 2%
  Non-agriculture 8% 8%
Unpaid family worker 
  Agriculture 11% 5%
  Non-agriculture 2% 2%
Employers 13% 10%

Source: Ministry of Education, 2014[20]

  • Country Profile
  • Introduction
  • Broad Economic Indicators
  • Currency and Exchange Rate
  • Competitiveness and Ease of Doing Business
  • Foreign Investment and Largest Companies
  • Foreign Aid
  • Country Strategic Framework
  • Summary of Economic Conditions
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Population
  • Living Standards and Poverty Levels
  • Healthcare
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Qualifications Profile of the Population and Workforce
  • Levels of Schooling and Basic Education
  • Technical and Vocational Education and Training
  • Tertiary Education
  • Innovation in Egypt
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations
  • Labour Force
  • Employment by Sector
  • Employment by Skill Level
  • Employment by Occupation
  • Labour Productivity
  • Unemployment and Job Creation
  • Expatriates, Immigrants and the Egyptian Diaspora
  • Wage and Salary Trends and Social Insurance
  • Industrial Relations Framework
  • Labour Market Efficiency
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Implications, Challenges and Recommendations

Need Assistance?

We created this platform with you in mind. Every aspect and all the information were meticulously planned and designed to offer you the highest quality content and a pleasant user experience.

If you need assistance or have suggestions, please let us know.

+27 11 706 6009

+27 11 706 6009

info@hcresearchportal.co.za