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Egyptian workers leaving Libya increases unemployment in Egypt: Chambers of Commerce official

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Infighting among Libyan militias leads Egyptians to flee, increasing the 13% unemployment rate for Egypt’s 26 million workforce, says chair of Recruitment Division at Chambers of Commerce Federation

A group of Egyptian nationals sitting outside the Cairo International Airport shortly after their return from Libya on Saturday (Photo Amany Kamal)

A group of Egyptian nationals sitting outside the Cairo International Airport shortly after their return from Libya on Saturday
(Photo Amany Kamal)

A decline in Egyptian workers in Libya will increase unemployment in the near future as political instability continues to plague Libya, said Hamdy Imam, Recruitment Division chair at the Federation of Chambers of Commerce.

According to Imam, precise figures do not exist for the number of Egyptian workers in Libya, but preliminary indicators show that over one million workers were employed in the country.

In May, average unemployment exceeded 13% for Egypt’s total labour force of 26 million, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics.

“Egyptian workers in Libya are unskilled and work in the contracting, agriculture, and commercial services fields,” said Imam.

Wages for workers in Libya range between EGP 2,500-4,000, higher than wages earned by labourers in the Gulf, according to Imam.

Egyptian labourers in Libya are often victims of the violence, as 23 workers died last week when their residence was shelled.

According to a Ministry of Civil Aviation official, the ministry is working to conduct four daily flights to Djerba airport in order to transport 2,000 workers stranded in Tunisia.

The Ministry of Defence send 13 tonnes of foodstuffs to Egyptians stranded in Tunisia during an influx from Libya as a result of fighting.

According to the Libyan Ambassador in Cairo Mohammed Fayez Jibril, the number of Egyptian workers in Libya amounts to approximately 1.5m, some permanent and others temporary residents in the country.

“In spite of poor security in Libya since the end of last year, Egyptian labour has been crossing the borders in search of work,” the ambassador said.

Jibril added that Libya receives about 200,000 Egyptian workers illegally each year, which exacerbates the security risks. Besides, the Libyan embassy issues about 300 visas monthly in Cairo.

“Egyptian workers at present time are not trained and do not bother with training,” said Osama Abdel-Moneim, member of the division for recruitments abroad, adding that the training centres do not accept them even though their doors are purportedly open.

He hopes that businessmen will pump investments into Libya in the future, so as to recruit more labour and decrease the high levels of unemployment.

Libyan investments in Egypt are up to approximately $12bn, according to Jibril, adding that Egyptian investments in his country are far less, not exceeding $2bn in the infrastructure sector.

Head of the Libyan-Egyptian Business Council Nasser Bayan believes that there will be a 60% decrease in Egyptian investments in Libya this year, as a result of the instability.

He demands the government to establish a free trade zone near the Salloum land port, to overcome the problem of exposure to truck robbery, assaults, and abduction of Egyptian transport vehicles.

According to a report issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, building materials topped the list of non-petroleum exports to Libyan territory during the first five months of this year, amounting to EGP 1.2bn.

Exports of the food industry came in second place, followed by agricultural crops, each worth EGP 1bn, according to the same report.

Bayan said a trade free zone in the Salloum land port would allow for trade and growth for both Egyptian and Libyan sides, and would need the work of investors. This will create more job opportunities, he added.

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