The International Labour Organization (ILO) has allocated $30m for projects in Egypt over a period of three years. These projects aim at creating decent jobs to contribute to economic growth. Besides that, the organisation is currently creating jobs through the qualification of young people to join the labour market and encourage young people to start their own projects.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Peter Van Rooij, the director of the ILO’s Decent Work Team (DWT) at the Cairo Office, to talk about the efforts undertaken by the organisation to develop the employment climate in Egypt.
There is currently an ongoing debate regarding the Egyptian labour law. What is the ILO’s course of action regarding Egypt’s labour law? Also, what are the advantages and disadvantages of the law?
Egypt is working on two important labour laws: the labour code and the new trade unions law on which it has been working on for the last five to six years. ILO is supporting this process because Egypt has ratified more than 60 ILO conventions. We are keen to make sure that these new Egyptian laws are complying with the conventions that Egypt has ratified; so we check that, but we also use any opportunity to give advice, pointing to the best practices of other countries. This process is ongoing, and Egypt has made good progress in these discussions and the ILO very much encourages that workers and the government discuss these laws together to come up with the best possible law that meets the interests of all parties.
When can we expect these laws to be issued?
Many people would say that this year a lot of work has been done on this and it is important to finalise it in the way that is best for the country and also best for workers and labourers. It is possible to issue the law by the end of the current year, but again: it depends on the performance of the dialogue—but I do know that it is possible to agree on the law this year.
Furthermore, Egypt showed a positive sentiment in these negotiations but we don’t see the government agreeing on everything; but overall, yes—it agrees.
To what extent is Egypt committed to labour laws and conventions?
Egypt is committed 100%.
The ILO receives complaints from workers or trade unions. How many complaints and what is the action taken by ILO in this regard?
Sometimes we receive complaints. However, we don’t have outstanding complaints as of now. If the ILO receives complaints regarding the conventions that have been ratified by Egypt, the ILO of course pays attention.
I know that there are a lot of discussions in Egypt that people say that the country is on the blacklist, but there is no blacklist, and we don’t have a blacklist, but it is true that many countries in the world have cases.
Does the ILO have concerns regarding the increase of the unemployment rate in Egypt?
The ILO shares concerns not only with the government of Egypt, but also with workers and employees, over youth unemployment. There is more potential for self–employment for people; however, we see that the number of entrepreneurs in Egypt is relatively low.
The number of suspended factories has increased. Do you receive requests from the Ministry of Trade and Industry or other ministries to assist with this problem?
We certainly have some insight. We get a lot of information from the government, and we work together with a number of ministries, such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Manpower, in order to understand the current situation and also see future opportunities, whether through general education or quality vocational training for future jobs.
Training is not the only issue when it comes to finding a job in Egypt, but there is also the financing issue. What is the ILO’s stance regarding financing?
We are not a financing agency, but we work on social finance, so self-employed people can get better access to different financing sources. We provide financing to some financial institutions—for example, we provide financing for training managers of financial institutions.
Are recruitment forums sufficient to create jobs?
It is clear that there is a need for further progress; however, some of these vacancies cannot be filled while at the same time there are people unemployed. Therefore, work needs to be done to match people with adequate jobs—not only for today, but also for coming years.
The Minister of Trade and Industry issued a decree restricting imports by registering foreign factories at the General Organization for Import and Export Control (GOEIC). Do you think that this violates the ILO’s laws and legislations?
The ILO is focusing on the employment dimension of the economy, so we work on the social dimension of the society, and our focus on labour and economic standards will have impacts on employment, but it does not directly touch on the international conventions that were ratified by Egypt.
Some countries complain about the bureaucracy of the registration process with the GOEIC. How do you view the situation?
It is true that Egypt, like many other countries, can progress further, like making it easier for companies to start their operations and the process less difficult.