Sunday,18 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)
Sunday,18 November, 2018
Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Reviewing working conditions

This year Labour Day coincided with the setting up of a supreme council for labour issues and the announcement of a revamped labour law, writes Nesma Nowar

 

Reviewing working conditions
Reviewing working conditions

Labour Day this year coincided with policy announcements that will seek to improve working conditions. During a Labour Day celebration on Monday President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi unveiled new legislation which he said will provide more secure employment for private sector workers.

The new bill is expected to be discussed in the parliament in the second half of May. It will cover more than 26 million private sector employees and is expected to abolish arbitrary dismissals, allowing workers to be sacked only after a court order has been obtained.

According to parliament’s Labour Committee, the new law will oblige employers to offer contracts and encourage them to hire younger workers.

The government also hopes to steer the Social Welfare Act through parliament by the end of June, allowing it to come into effect during fiscal year 2018-2019, says Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Wali. The law will amend social welfare and pension systems, expand unemployment benefits and establish a new pension fund.

Labour Day celebrations were held days after the government announced a supreme council for community dialogue on labour issues to be headed by the minister of manpower. The council will include representatives of employers, workers and labour unions and a number of cabinet ministers.

The council will be charged with developing dialogue between workers and management and will participate in preparing laws regulating employment practices.

The council could offer an effective mechanism to address labour issues but “it needs to have a clear vision and targets as well as a monitoring process for its actions,” Yomn Al-Hamaki, a professor of economics at Ain Shams University, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Al-Hamaki says the greatest problem workers face in Egypt is low productivity which hampers development efforts. Without qualified human resources, she warns, mega projects currently being implemented will not realise their aims.

Sporadic training programmes will not solve the problem. What Egypt needs, she says, is a holistic strategy to upgrade the nation’s skill base.

Low productivity is a multi-dimensional problem that feeds into other problems, not least because it brings low wages.

“We can’t speak about a realistic rise in the minimum wage when labour lacks basic skills,” says Al-Hamaki.

Workers have long complained of low wages. The minimum wage, set at LE1,200 a month before the floatation of the Egyptian pound in late 2016 and the subsequent skyrocketing of prices, has yet to be increased.

During Monday’s Labour Day Celebration Al-Sisi also spoke about the Aman (security) insurance certificates launched in March which provide insurance cover for seasonal labourers and other casual workers.

The president said he was closely following the roll out of Aman certificates and hopes to see an increase in take-up in both the public and private sectors.

The certificates are available at four banks — the National Bank of Egypt, Banque du Caire, the Agricultural Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr.

Al-Sayed Al-Kassir, chairman of the Agricultural Bank of Egypt, told the Weekly the bank has sold certificates valued at LE153 million to various bodies, including the National Council for Women, water companies and sanitation firms, since they were launched.

Banque du Caire Vice President Hazem Hegazi says 17,000 individuals have bought Aman certificates valued at LE21 million, supplemented by a LE176 million payment from larger entities.

By last week, the National Bank of Egypt had sold 55,000 Aman certificates for LE72 million.

Al-Hamaki praised the certificate initiative, though she says the programme needs to be developed after some workers complained that insurance does not cover fatal accidents at work.

Meanwhile, on Monday, a $37 million cooperation protocol creating jobs and developing the private sector in Egypt was signed between the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation.

Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr said the protocol will allow hundreds of job opportunities for young people to be created and help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to improve their productivity.

Egypt’s unemployment rate dipped to 11.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2017 from 12.4 per cent in the same period a year earlier, the lowest rate since December 2010, figures from the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) show.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has pledged to cut unemployment to 10 per cent over the next few years, a target that will require higher levels of economic growth.

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