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Cairo Workshop, “Social Protection and Employment, a strong need for coordination and integration”

Employment is amongst the most daunting challenges facing Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries, where around 30% of population is under the age of 15.

30 to 40 million jobs will have to be created over the next 20 years to maintain the current rate of employment, which is already quite low.

Despite high growth rates in the SEMCs over recent years, job creation from the private sector has indeed remained low. Due to budgetary constraints, the public sector is no longer a reliable job provider for the increasing flows of higher education graduates whose qualifications generally do not meet labour market needs. Young people and women are particularly affected.

The persistence of high unemployment rates and limited employment opportunities, as the current social safety nets were hindered by rises in commodities prices and budget constraints, was one of the main drivers of the Arab Spring. Not only do people now seek decently paid and safe jobs in the formal sector but also social insurance schemes against the risks of unemployment, disease and disability, as well as retirement and pension schemes. Besides, they are in need of programs enabling them to build skills to find jobs and improve their earning opportunities.

The top priority on employment, brought to the forefront by the Arab Spring was addressed by the CMI under its Skills, Employment and Labor Mobility (SELM) cluster, now part of the Participatory Governance theme through a quick, renewed and coordinated response.

After a first workshop held in Tunis on June 2011 targeted on emergency social measures for a successful transition organized upon request of the Government of Tunisia, the partners of the program have moved forward on their process with a second workshop held in Cairo on October 1-3, 2012. This event was lead in supporting the efforts of the Egyptian Government to identify actionable solutions for a “jobful” recovery, based on the experience of social measures implemented in countries that have gone through similar transition processes.

The objective of the workshop was to share with a broad range of Egyptian partners a variety of tools and practices, implemented internationally or elaborated locally, addressing unemployment and job creation in order to support the identification of active labour market programmes and measures adapted to the Egyptian context.

The workshop, hosted by the Cairo University, was organized under the umbrella of the CMI by the Egyptian Authorities and AFD, the World Bank, the European Union, the International Labour Organization and the African Development Bank. The United Nation Development Programme, Japan and the GIZ (German international cooperation) were also invited to take part of the discussions.

As preparatory work, two reports were commissioned to consultants from the region and Egypt respectively ‘Expertise on policies promoting the employability of young people in the Mediterranean’ by ET Maghreb and ‘Active Labor Market Policies: Mapping of Existing Initiatives in Egypt’ by Dr Mona Amer.

The workshop was opened by H.E. Khaled El Azhari, Minister of Manpower and Migration, He stressed the need for coordination and integration, with 11 Ministries currently involved in employment issues and he welcomed the opportunity of the workshop for developing contents within the international cooperation framework and mentioned with a hopeful note ‘do not ask me to feed a thousand mouths but tell me how to benefit from a thousand hands!’

Increasing the number of jobs; foster technical education and vocational training strategies; better match labour market information and support pathways into work for young people and woman were the four main pillars of the workshop.

The sessions combined interventions from researchers, experts, practitioners and development partners to present experiences and best practices for which 60 participants from ministries, public agencies, the private sector, researchers, practitioners and experts from abroad and inside Egypt, and the civil society discussed. During each session, findings and reflections related to the situation in Egypt were debated.

The workshop met the expectations of organizers and participants by (i) providing direct access to broad knowledge and best practices, thus ensuring capacity building through expertise network and multipartner support; (ii) enhancing donor coordination as well as mobilization on the Egyptian side, and (iii) fuelling policy dialogue with the Government of Egypt for the preparation of donors’ interventions in employment and social protection.

The wrap up session emphasized the need to mainstream Egypt’s institutional setting to improve efficiency and move from separate projects to integrated programs making use of the whole set of public policy instruments including regulations, financial and fiscal measures, institutional arrangements, public investment, research, training and information tools. Monitoring and evaluation via measurable targets and impact assessment were also emphasized. ‘Not add but simplify; not only expand but transform’ were the key words of the session and the summarized conclusions of the workshop.

The development partners, in particular AFD Office in Cairo, will now follow up on the workshop by continuing the policy dialogue with Egyptian authorities. CMI plans to hold two further workshops on employment in 2013 in two different countries.


Session 1: Augment the number of jobs

Session 2: Technical education and vocational training strategy

​​Session 3: Information on the labor market, information inquiries 

Session 4: Support at work for young people and women