The New Egyptian Labor Movement: Giving Youth a Voice in the Workplace

30 September 2014

The rise of independent trade unions is fostering a more stable environment for job creation and offering Egyptian youth a channel for voicing their demands.

This report was featured as a chapter in ‘Overcoming the Youth Employment Crisis : Strategies from Around the Globe’, a joint report co-authored by the global partners of JustJobs Network. The desperate need for more and better jobs for Egypt’s youth is one of the key challenges confronting the country. Youth discontent was the spark that helped ignite the 2011 revolution, and if high youth unemployment and poor working conditions continue to persist, so will Egypt’s social unrest and its economic woes. As Dewan et al claim in a report by the JustJobs Network, “Stability depends on whether Egypt’s economy can generate enough “just jobs”—complete with appropriate remuneration, good working conditions, and opportunities for average citizens to make a better life for themselves and their families—to give the nation’s new democracy the underpinning it needs to thrive.”

This report examines whether trade unions can be a constructive actor to help generate more positive job outcomes for Egyptian youth. Can they be part of the solution, and if so, how?

An examination of strike statistics and qualitative fieldwork in Egypt suggest that trade unions exert an important positive influence on employment outcomes in the Egyptian labor market.

They have the ability to improve work standards, build a more democratic and transparent industrial relations system, and provide an arena for youth to voice their grievances in a controlled environment rather than through violent and unruly means. Although there are several challenges facing youth organizing in trade unions, supporting and strengthening independent trade unions in Egypt will help improve the employment outcomes for youth in Egypt.