When There is 'No Respect' at Work: Job Quality Issues for Women in Egypt’s Private Sector

15 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2010

See all articles by Ghada Barsoum

Ghada Barsoum

Population Council, West Asia and North Africa Office

Date Written: August 18, 2010


Female labour force participation in Egypt is very low. Despite increasing access to education, women’s labour force participation in Egypt is one of the lowest in the World. This paper purports to show that job quality issues in Egypt’s private sector are central to women’s limited labour market participation. The stagnation of public sector hiring as part of structural adjustment policies that started in the 1980s has limited women’s employment opportunities in this sector. However, the private sector offers jobs that are not attractive for women. These jobs are rarely based on signed work contracts, offer low pay and have long hours. The lack of job contracts prevents these employed women from contributing to the government’s pension plans, which are based on job contracts. Given the nature of the economy in Egypt, with the majority of economic enterprises being small or micro in scale, the presence of young women in these enterprises exposes them to issues of sexual harassment. Fear of sexual harassment is another reason why young women do not prefer to work in Egypt’s private sector. Interviewed young women also highlight the less tangible issues related to the way they are treated by employers as central to their assessment of their working conditions. Despite the stagnation of public sector hiring, its jobs are relatively women-friendly in terms of hours, workplace gender propriety and the less hierarchical relations. Therefore, young women continue to seek jobs in this sector. They accept short-term contracts in the public sector, hoping that these short term contracts might lead to permanent hiring. When these contracts do not turn into permanent contracts, which is usually the case, the public sector dream is a pursuit of a chimera. This study is based on ethnographic field methods of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Focusing on job quality issues, the study seeks to highlight women’s perceptions and views about job quality and subjectivities.

Keywords: employment, gender, job quality

JEL Classification: J7

Suggested Citation

Barsoum, Ghada, When There is 'No Respect' at Work: Job Quality Issues for Women in Egypt’s Private Sector (August 18, 2010). OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 67-80, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1661196

Ghada Barsoum (Contact Author)

Population Council, West Asia and North Africa Office ( email )

One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
New York, NY 10017
United States

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