12th Annual Conference of the Economic Research Forum
(Labor Research Theme)
The Effects of Structural Adjustment on Youth Unemployment in
University of Pittsburgh & University of Phoenix (USA)
University of Southampton (UK)
The persistence of high unemployment rates in recent years has become a major
problem in many MENA countries, especially in Egypt. The aim of this paper is to
examine the effects of economic reforms in Egypt on youth unemployment. The paper
investigates the extent to which reforms in the early 1990s have led to higher
unemployment among the youth in Egypt. The paper presents new evidence on the
incidence of youth unemployment before and after the structural adjustment period, in
1988 and 1998. In addition, it examines the determinants of unemployment duration
and the probability of exiting unemployment by estimating hazard functions for exits
to public sector and private sector employment. The main findings of the paper show
that the incidence of youth unemployment has increased during the 1990s. In addition,
the empirical evidence suggests that youth unemployment is the result of not only
queuing for public sector jobs, but also and more importantly the limited role played
by the private sector in job creation and labor absorption.
The persistence of high unemployment rates in recent years has become a major
problem in many MENA countries, especially in Egypt. According to The World
Bank Report (2003), Egypt has experienced a rise in unemployment rate from 5.8
percent in 1988 to 8.3 percent 1998. Although most age-groups have witnessed high
unemployment over this period, young adults have faired worse than the rest. Youth
unemployment in Egypt rose from 11 percent in 1988 to 18 percent in 1998. In
addition, youth unemployment is concentrated among those with intermediate and
higher levels of education.
According to the ILO, more recently, in 2004, youth unemployment was around 24
per cent in MENA, the highest in the world.1 Unemployment rates among the 15-24
age groups are more than the national average in most countries of the region. It is not
surprising, that this is a major concern. Youth unemployment is particularly costly
because most of human capital investment takes place in early working years as
suggested by the human capital theory. In addition, long periods of unemployment
lead to discouraged workers, scarring effects, social alienation and other societal
problems. Employers, on the other hand, might use employment and unemployment
history as a signal to sort out those with shorter or no periods of unemployment, who
are potentially more productive, than the unemployed. Thus, the persistence of
unemployment in particular among the youth is an important social and economic
The aim of this paper is to examine the effects of economic reforms in Egypt on youth
unemployment. The paper will investigate the extent to which reforms, in early 1990s,
have led to higher unemployment among the youth. The paper will present new
evidence on the incidence of youth unemployment in Egypt before and after the
structural adjustment period, in 1988 and 1998. In addition, it will examine the
determinants of unemployment duration and the probability of exiting unemployment
to public sector and private sector employment.
1 ILO, Global Employment Trends 2005.
The paper aims to answer the following questions:
1) What are the characteristics of workers with the highest risk of
unemployment? What are the characteristics of the unemployed youth (15-29
2) Are the youth more likely to be unemployed after reforms i.e. in 1998
compared to 1988?
3) Are the youth more likely to be unemployed for longer durations after
reforms? What is the effect of reforms on unemployment duration of the
4) What is the hazard rate for exiting unemployment to different employment
sectors among the youth?
The structure of the paper is as follows. Section 2 provides a background on the
pattern and trends of unemployment in Egypt. Section 3 reviews the previous
literature on unemployment, while section 4 examines to what extent unemployment
has increased as a result of structural reforms by examining the probability of
unemployment in 1998 compared to that of 1988. Section 5 extends the analysis by
studying the determinants of unemployment duration by estimating the hazard rate of
exiting unemployment to public and private sectors of employment. Section 6
concludes by summarizing the main findings of the paper and discussing policy
2. The Trends and Patterns of Unemployment in Egypt
According to the ILO estimates, the MENA region has had one of the highest
unemployment rates among the developing regions in the 1990s as seen in Figure 1.
In addition, an important characteristic of unemployment in MENA has been its
young face. In 2004, youth unemployment rate in MENA was around 24 per cent, the
highest in the world- Figure 2.2 Egypt in particular, being the most populated country
in the region, has witnessed an increase in both unemployment rates and in the
numbers of unemployed individuals. In 2003, unemployment rate was almost 11
percent.3 However, unemployment rates are higher among women than men: male
2 ILO, World Employment Report 2004-05.
3 ILO estimate: LABSTA.
unemployment rate was around 7.5 percent while female unemployment rate was 23.3
percent in 2003.4
In the last two decades, Egypt continued to witness an increase in the size of its
working population resulting from earlier high population growth rates. As a result,
there was pressure on the labor market to absorb an increasing number of new
entrants in the 1990s, as well as to adjust to economic reforms. At present, 35% of the
working age population in Egypt is youth (15-24 years of age). Thus, high youth
unemployment rates are a major concern for policy makers. For example, addressing
parliament in January 2001, the Prime Minister of Egypt declared that the
government's most important task is to "create the largest number of job opportunities
possible for youth and to reduce the size of accumulated unemployment."5 The
government announced then a plan to create some 900,000 jobs in the fiscal year
starting July 2001-2002. At the time, the labor force has been increasing by some
733,000 graduates entering the labor market each year for the first time. Thus, to
absorb the new entrants and reduce unemployment by 100,000 a year, the economy
would need to create 833,000 new jobs every year, which requires an increase in GDP
by 6-7% annually!6
Despite an unprecedented GDP growth rate in Egypt between 1975-1985, which
reached over 8%, and despite the huge migration to Arab oil countries during that
period, this growth did not create proportionate employment opportunities.
Unemployment rate averaged around 4% at that time, according to 1976 census. One
of the reasons behind unemployment growth was the fact that most of this growth was
at the expense of reduced investment in labor intensive sectors, and adaptation of
capital intensive technologies.7 The slowdown of the economic growth in the 1980s
was manifested in higher rates of unemployment that reached 11% according to 1986
population census. The latest census, 1996, reported 9% unemployment rate,
although the most recent figures from the LFSS by CAPMAS is around 11 percent.
Thus, the statistics show high persistence unemployment rates in Egypt.
4 CAPMAS, Labor Force Sample Surveys 2003.
5 ERF Report, No. 87, 2002.
6 ERF Report, No. 87, 2002.
7 Towards Decent work in North Africa, ILO, 2005.
Since early 1990s, Egypt has gone through considerable restructuring process.
Through its transit to a market economy, downsizing the public sector, and privatizing
public enterprises which had significant effects on the labor market.8 In the following
sections we examine to what extent those reforms contributed to unemployment
particularly youth unemployment.
3. Review of the Literature
The analysis of unemployment in developing countries is quite limited in spite of the
magnitude of this problem. Few studies have focused on whether unemployment in
developing countries is a luxury by examining the characteristics of the unemployed.
For example, Rama (1999) studies unemployment in Sri Lanka and finds that it is
largely voluntary and not the result of a shortage of jobs but the artificial gap between
good and bad jobs. He argues that substantial rents associated with jobs in the public
sector and in the formal private sector activities that are protected by high tariffs or
covered by job security regulations are responsible for the high unemployment rates.
On the other hand, Kingdon and Knight (2001) find little evidence to support the
luxury unemployment interpretation of joblessness in South Africa; i.e. they find that
unemployment is not voluntary in South Africa.
Unemployment is a function of not only the number of the unemployed (the
probability of unemployment) but also the length of unemployment. Some countries
have low incidence of unemployment but a long duration, while others have high
incidence of unemployment but short duration. The nature of unemployment and
therefore the policies to deal with unemployment would be different in each case.
This is why it is important to study both unemployment incidence and duration in
order to fully understand the nature of unemployment.
Most of unemployment duration analysis has focused on developed countries, for
example, France by van den Berg and van Ours (1999) and Portugal by Portugal and
Addison ( 2003) and transition economies such as: Slovak by Lubyova and van Ours
(1997) and Russia by Foley (1997), and Grogan and van den Berg (2001). Fewer
8 See Assaad (2002) for a review of the transformation of the Egyptian labor market during reforms.
studies have focused on unemployment duration in developing countries, namely:
Tunali and Assaad (1992), Tansel and Tasci (2005) and Serneels (2002).
Tunali and Assaad (1992) investigate the links between market structure and
unemployment duration in the construction sector in Egypt. Tansel and Tasci (2005)
study unemployment duration in Turkey using two definitions of unemployment:
unemployment with search criterion and unemployment without search. Serneels
(2002), on the other hand, is the only study we are aware of that examines youth
unemployment duration in a developing country, namely Ethiopia. However, our
paper is the first study that focuses on youth unemployment in Egypt and examines
the effects of economic reforms on the incidence of youth unemployment.
One important issue which has been the focus of earlier studies is unemployment
duration dependence. The empirical evidence on unemployment duration dependence
of youth has been mixed, both across and within countries, although this literature
refers only to developed countries. Heckman and Borjas (1980) find no duration
dependence. Lynch (1989) finds negative duration dependence and Korpi (1995), and
Russell and O’Connell (2001) find evidence of non-linear duration dependence. On
the other hand, McVicar and Podivinsky (2001) find evidence of downward sloping
hazard functions for young people in Northern Ireland, although they also find some
evidence of a spike in the hazard function after 5-6 months of unemployment.
Previous studies on unemployment duration have examined the main determinants of
unemployment though with mixed results. In what follows, we summarize the most
important findings of this literature that are relevant to this study. First, fewer studies
have looked at women unemployment because of lack of data and the difficulty of
observing unemployed women. However, Grogan and van den Berg (2001) find that
Russian women have significantly lower unemployment durations than men. On the
other hand, Tansel and Tasci (2005) show that the probability of leaving
unemployment for women is substantially lower than for men, which they argue may
indicate that either women have a high shadow value of home production activities,
and thus a high reservation wage, or may be an indication of discrimination against
women in the labor market. Secondly, education has been an important determinant of
unemployment duration. For example, Park (1997) finds that education reduces the
probability of long term unemployment in the USA. Kettunen (1997) using Finnish
microeconomic data shows that unemployed persons who have about 13-14 years of
education have the highest re-employment probability. Ham et al (1998), in the
Czech Republic, find that education had no significant impact on the spell duration in
1994, though in 1995 - 1996 more educated people had more chances to leave the
unemployment pool. Grogan and van den Berg (2000) find that workers with high
education have significantly shorter unemployment spells in comparison with lower
educated workers in Russia. This result is in contrast with the results concerning the
effect of education obtained by Foley (1997). Thirdly, age plays an important role in
unemployment duration. Abraham and Vodopivec (1993) examine major factors
affecting the duration of unemployment spells in Slovenia. They find that older
workers and least educated workers have the most troubles in finding a job. Lower
hazard rate at older ages is also found by Serneels (2002) in Ethiopia. Narendranathan
and Stewart (1993a) and Arulampalam and Stewart (1995) suggest that the probability
of entering full-time work falls with age and voluntary separation from the previous
job and increases with predicted earnings in employment. Dushi (1997) investigates
unemployment in Albania and finds that age, gender, education, local unemployment
rate, number of children have no statistically significant effects on the exit rate. Thus,
the empirical findings suggest that determinants of unemployment are different across
countries and that individual characteristics are not always significant determinants of
4. Has Youth Unemployment Increased?
In this section we investigate to what extent unemployment has increased as a result
of structural reforms in Egypt by examining the probability of unemployment in 1998
compared to that of 1988.
The empirical analysis is based on the 1988 Egypt Labor Force Sample Surveys and
1998 Egypt Labor Marker Survey which are nationally representative household
surveys covering 10,000 households in 1988 and 5,000 households in 1998. Both
surveys use a similar sample and questionnaire design to ensure the comparability of
the surveys in order to assess major changes in the labor market conditions during
1988-1998. They include extensive data on employment characteristics such as status,
economic activity, duration of unemployment, occupation …etc.
We follow the ILO definition of the unemployed as: those people ages 15-64 who are
(1) without work, (2) available for work and (3) have been looking for work.9 We
acknowledge that our analysis does not correct for the discouraged unemployed or for
the degree of underemployment for lack of data. We use the extended definition of
employment that includes all those engaged in any subsistence production.10 For our
purpose, youth refers to those 15-29 years of age , although we distinguish between
15-19, 20-24 and 25-29 age groups.
4.2 Who are the Unemployed?
Based on the 1988 LFSS and the 1998 ELMS, unemployment rates have increased
from 5.7 percent to 8 percent, (i.e. a 40% increase). However youth unemployment
rates have increased from 11 percent to 18 percent, which is 64 percent increase over
10 years- Figure 3. Table 1 presents the characteristics of the total unemployed and
the youth unemployed in 1998 and 1988. Examining the features of the unemployed
in 1998 and 1988, it is clear that an important feature of unemployment in Egypt is its
feminine face. Female unemployment rates are higher than that of males, although the
proportion of males among the unemployed has also increased in the 90s.
It seems that during the 90s, marriage among the youth has declined, probably
reflecting a tendency to marry at an older age, but also reflecting a potential impact
from unemployment. In 1998, only 26% of the youth labor force was married
compared to 40% in 1988. The unemployed youth who were married were lower in
1998 than in 1988 (15% and 23% respectively). See Figure 4.
Table 1 shows that the youth comprised around 37% of the labor force in Egypt in the
90s and almost 42% in the 80s. Yet, in both decades over 80% of the unemployed
9During the early 1980s, the ILO relaxed the search criterion when defining unemployment in case of
10 This is the definition used in the 1988 LFSS.
were young. However, Figure 5 shows that the age composition of the unemployed
youth has changed in favor of the older cohort which is not surprising given that the
15-19 had tended to stay longer in education in the 90s.
Table 1 also points to a shift in the labor force from rural to urban regions. For
example, total labor force increased in urban areas from 50% to over 61% within this
decade. The hardest hit was experienced by lower rural areas who witnessed a drop in
their labor force by over 24%. This is because of the decline in agriculture witnessed
recently. However, the youth labor force are no longer concentrated in Greater Cairo,
the world’s 15th most populous cities, but has increased their presence in Lower and
Upper Urban regions, with heavier concentration in the latter.
Both Cairo and lower regions (urban and rural) had over 65% of total unemployment
in 1988, with very close percentages (35% and 30% respectively). However, Cairo
noticed a drop in its unemployed workers by 49% (from 35% to 18%) and Lower
regions witnessed an increase of unemployment by over 42%. The share of the
unemployed youth living in Lower Rural increased by 50%, while those in Lower
Urban by 22% over the 90s.11 One potential reason for this regional change in the
pattern of unemployment is the tight housing market in Greater Cairo which has
resulted in very low migration rates – thus workers are no longer moving to Greater
Cairo to find jobs. In addition, agriculture is not absorbing new workers in Rural
Looking at the human capital of the labor force, it is evident that the labor force now
is becoming more educated. For example, in 1988 a mere 60% of the labor force
barely knew how to read and write, with almost half the total labor force illiterate
(45%). But in 1998, only 26% of the labor force was illiterate, with primary and
intermediate education comprising over 40% of the labor force. The youth labor force
was more educated with intermediate and secondary certificates than before, with an
increase of 60% at both levels since 1988. The university educated youth as a
proportion of youth labor also increased by the equivalent of 40% by 1998.
11 This is consistent with Assaad (2002)’s findings. See Assaad (2002) chapter 1, p. 26.
Examining the distribution of the unemployed by educational level, Table 1, it is clear
that the composition of the unemployed has changed reflecting in part the higher
educational level of the labor force. The largest group of unemployed tends to be
those with intermediate degree in both years though that has increased in the 90s from
44% in 1988 to 54% in 1998.12 In addition, there has been a fall in the proportion of
those unemployed with low levels of education among the unemployed and an
increase in the share of those with more education among the unemployed. Similar
educational patterns are observed for the total unemployed and the youth unemployed
which is not surprising since the majority of the unemployed are youth.
Finally, the literature points to some household characteristics that might affect the
labor supply decision, such as the level of education of the parents. In this paper, we
look at the literacy or illiteracy rates of the parents. The general observation is that
fewer workers and unemployed have illiterate parents in 1998 compared to 1988.
However, the evidence indicates that particularly for the unemployed, they are less
likely to have illiterate parents in the 90s compared to the 80s suggesting that the
unemployed do not come from the poorest households because they probably can not
In sum, within ten years, there has been an increase in unemployment. The youth in
particular have experienced an increase in unemployment, which is reflected in higher
youth unemployment rates. Most of the increase occurred at the intermediate and
secondary levels of education. Lower Urban Egypt witnessed the highest increase in
youth unemployment. Finally, the majority of the unemployed are more likely than
the rest of the labor force to come from households with literate parents.
To examine the extent to which unemployment has increased as a result of structural
reforms, we estimate the probability of unemployment in 1998 compared to that of
12 However, it is worthwhile remembering that the uneducated tend to enter the labor market earlier
than those with education.
1988. We focus on the youth, but also provide estimates for the total sample of the
labor force (15-64 years of age). We use a probit regression model. We investigate
the influence of exogenous individual characteristics on unemployment (age, gender,
and education), parents’ characteristics (father and mother being illiterates) and
regional dummies to control for labor market conditions.
4.4 Empirical Findings
Tables 2 and 3 present the marginal effects of the probability of unemployment in
Egypt for the total unemployed sample and for the youth unemployed. The last
column (Column 5) points out whether the difference in the marginal effect in 1998 is
statistically different from that of 1988 at the 5 percent level. Table 2 shows the
determinants of unemployment for the total sample, while Table 3 shows the
determinants of unemployment for the youth (15-29 years).
Examining the total sample in Table 2 and comparing columns 1 and 3, we find that
men are less likely than women to be unemployed. However, this probability is lower
in the 90s, compared to the 80s confirming the descriptive statistics in Table 1
suggesting that reforms have affected both genders. Another important finding is that
the probability of unemployment declines with age in both years. Yet the effect of age
is different before and after reforms as follows. It seems those aged 20-24 years of age
had the highest probability of unemployment in the 90s and the 80s, though this
probability has increased in the 90s. Yet, the probability of unemployment has
increased for all the age groups. In addition, education plays an important role in
unemployment. Those with no education are the least likely to be unemployed
probably because they can not afford to. Although those with intermediate education
(less than secondary) had the highest probability in the 80s and 90s, those with
secondary education became just as likely to be unemployed in the 90s. Overall, it is
those with intermediate education or higher who were affected by reforms in the 90s
and had higher risk of unemployment. Finally parents’ education does not seem to be
As far as the youth are concerned, Table 3 shows that among the youth, females are
more likely to be unemployed than males though that effect was slightly weaker in the
1990s. The probability of unemployment was highest among those aged 15-19 in the
1980s while in the 1990s both the 15-19 and 20-24 years old were as likely to be
unemployed. Also, the probability of unemployment among those who were 25-29
years was relatively less than among 20-24 years old, the age group most hit by
unemployment. Finally, among the young, the educated are more likely to be
unemployed relative to the uneducated. This trend has increased in the 90s after
Figure 6 shows the predicted probability of unemployment by educational level in
1998 and 1988 for a reference person (a 25 year old male living in Greater Cairo). As
is clear from the figure, unemployment rates have increased for all educational levels
in the 90s, except for those with less than intermediate education.
Thus, to sum up, although unemployment has increased in the 90s, the impact on the
youth, in particular the 20-24 age group and the educated, was greater. In the next
section, we extend this analysis by studying the determinants of the unemployment
duration in the 90s using the 1998 ELMS.
5. Duration Analysis
5.1 Econometric Framework
The empirical analysis of unemployment duration is based on the job search approach
where the duration of unemployment is modeled by specifying the conditional
probability of leaving unemployment, referred to as the hazard function, see Lancaster
(1990). The hazard function is the product of two probabilities: the probability of
receiving a job offer and the probability of accepting job offer. We estimate a reduced
form model where the total effects of the variables on exiting unemployment is
estimated rather than their separate effects on the two probabilities.13
The slope of the hazard function reflects the nature of duration dependence. For
example, downward sloping hazard functions relate to negative duration dependence
and upward sloping hazard functions to positive duration dependence. Horizontal
hazard functions correspond to no duration dependence. Non-linear duration
13 Jenkins (2004).
dependence (e.g. some combination of positive and negative duration dependence) is
also possible, and this would correspond to a non-linear hazard function (e.g. an
Given the nature of our data, unemployment durations are grouped into discrete time
intervals (months). So, we estimate the probability of exiting unemployment in a
discrete time independent competing risks framework with flexible baseline hazard
rates. In addition, we take account of unobserved heterogeneity. Although few authors
have criticized the inclusion of an error term which is independent of both observed
heterogeneity and time, for example, Narendranathan and Stewart (1993a) and
Boheim and Taylor (2002), other studies like Tansel and Tasci (2005) have argued
that omission of unobserved factors result in inconsistent estimates. We report the
estimates with and without unobserved heterogeneity.
Based on Jenkins (2004), we estimate a maximum likelihood two discrete time
(grouped duration data) proportional hazards regression models: (1) the Prentice-
Gloeckler (1978) model; and (2) the Prentice-Gloeckler (1978) model incorporating a
gamma mixture distribution to summarize unobserved individual heterogeneity, as
proposed by Meyer (1990). We chose a parametric specification for duration
dependence log (t) to capture the duration dependence.14 For further details of the
models, see Jenkins (2004).
In model 1, the discrete time hazard rate for person i in the time interval j to leave
unemployment to a certain state can be written as:
where Xij is a set of covariates,
are the coefficients to be estimated, and
(t) is the
functional form of how the duration of the spell affects the hazard rate assumed to be
exp(t). The covariates used include individual characteristics such as gender, level of
14 We have also experimented with other specifications such as piece wise constant duration intervals,
and duration dummies. However, neither of those specifications suited the data.
education, and age at start of unemployment. To capture local labor market
conditions15 we use regional dummies and the year unemployment started.
Model 2 incorporates a Gamma distributed random variable to describe unobserved
(or omitted) heterogeneity between individuals. The discrete-time hazard function is:
where εi is a Gamma distributed random variable with unit mean and variance σ
We distinguish between two different exit destinations from unemployment namely –
to public sector employment, and to private sector employment. These are referred to
as two independent competing risks, where the log likelihood can be split into the sum
of its risk-specific hazards (Lancaster, 1990). In such a model observations which exit
to a different destination are treated as censored.
For this part of the empirical analysis we use the 1998 ELMS only since the 1988
LFSS lacks information on the duration of unemployment for those with complete
spells. The 1998 ELMS provides data on unemployment duration for those with
incomplete spells i.e. those currently unemployed which we used in the previous
section. In addition, the labor mobility module provides information on complete
spells i.e. previous unemployment spells (date started unemployment, and date of exit
from unemployment). Given the data, we only have full information on the last spell
of unemployment per individual.
For this analysis we focus on the youth (15-29 years of age) who comprise the
majority of the unemployed.16 There are 1045 young individuals: 532 males and 513
females. Almost half of the observations (596) are right censored i.e. individuals are
observed whilst still unemployed. Exits to public sector employment account for 26 %
15 Time series data on local unemployment rates by governorate/province/region in Egypt are not
16 We refer to age at the start of the unemployment spell.
of the unemployed sample (275 individuals) while 19% of the sample exit to private
sector employment (176 individuals). Figure 7 provides the distribution of
unemployment duration of the youth by gender. This suggests that females have
longer unemployment spells than males. Unfortunately, we are unable to estimate
separately the hazard rates for males and females in the analysis below because
insufficient exits prevent us from splitting the sample by gender. Also, it should be
noted here that there are insufficient exits from unemployment to private sector to
distinguish between formal and informal private sector.
Before estimating the duration models, we expand the data by unemployment
duration, so that each spell of unemployment corresponds to one or more rows in the
data file depending on the spell length (see Jenkins 2004). Limiting our analysis to the
youth, we have 1045 individuals (15-29 years old) and 45234 unemployment spells
(measured in months). The median duration of unemployment spells is 30 months –
Table 4. The survivor function (Figure 8) shows the proportion of the unemployed
who survive unemployment as time elapses.
5.3 Estimation Results
Results of the two discrete time hazard models are presented in Table 5. The figures
reported are the estimated coefficients.17 First comparing Model 1 and Model 2, the
variance of the gamma mixture distribution is barely significant at 10% in the case of
exits to public sector employment and significant at 5% for exits to the private sector.
In other words, in both cases there is evidence of unobserved heterogeneity (frailty)
although this is more significant for the private sector exits. In addition, the duration
dependence parameter is larger in Models 2 because not accounting for unobserved
heterogeneity induces an under-estimate of the extent to which the hazard rate
increases with duration. Moreover the coefficients in Models 2 are slightly larger in
absolute value than those in Models 1 which is expected because frailty weakens the
magnitude of the impact of covariates on the hazard rate.
Now, examining the effect of the covariates on leaving unemployment to
public sector employment, we find evidence of positive duration dependence which is
unsurprising in the case of Egypt given the queuing for public sector jobs. This is also
17Note that the proportionate impact of each variable on the state-specific hazard rate can be calculated
by taking the exponent of the coefficient.
echoed in the time trend used to capture the year of unemployment. If the
unemployment spell started recently the hazard rate is lower. Being male increases the
hazard rate of leaving unemployment. Exits to public sector employment seems to be
positively affected by age: those in the 20-24 years age bracket have higher
probability compared to the younger youth 15-19 or the older ones: 25-29 years old.
The most important determinant of exits to public sector from unemployment seems
to be education. Thus, the more educated are more likely to exit unemployment to the
public sector. In a way this reflects the hiring system in the public sector in Egypt.
Examining exits from unemployment to private sector employment, we also
find evidence of positive duration dependence. However, the time trend used to
capture the year of unemployment is positive and significant suggesting that the more
recent the unemployment spell started, the higher is the hazard rate to exit to private
sector employment. Men are more likely than women to enter private sector. Age
doesn’t seem to affect the exit rate into the private sector among the youth. There
seems to be negative relationship between education and exit to the private sector.
Those with no education have the highest hazard rate, but those with intermediate and
secondary education are the least likely to exit unemployment for private sector
employment. Individuals living in Greater Cairo, and Alexandria and Canal Cities
seem to have higher hazard rates than other regions.
Figures 9a, 9b and 10 illustrate the predicted baseline hazard rates out of
unemployment for our two destinations by gender and two educational levels: no
education and university education.18 Figure 9a plots the estimated baseline hazard
rates from unemployment to public sector employment for men and women but only
for 60 months to provide a clear picture of the shape of the predicted hazard rate for
the educated. For men with university qualifications the predicted hazard rate of
exiting unemployment to public sector is around 24 months while for women it takes
longer where it is around almost 48 months. As shown in Figures 9a and 9b the
estimated hazard for those with no education is much lower than for those with
university degrees both for men and women. However, for the uneducated, the hazard
18 These figures are for a reference person who is between 25 and 29 years of age and lives in Greater
rate for exits to the public sector never increases beyond 0.4 for men and 0.2 for
women even after many years of unemployment as shown in Figure 9b.
Figure 10 shows the estimated baseline hazard rates from unemployment to private
sector employment for men and women. This reflects a totally different scenario from
the public sector employment where both education and gender matter. So, men are
more likely to exit to private sector than women regardless of their educational level.
However, uneducated men have the highest predicted hazard rate followed by men
with university education. It is important to note that for all groups the hazard rate of
exiting to private employment is quite low.
Thus to sum up, it does seem that youth unemployment among educated women in
particular is predominantly driven by the public sector. Overall, the evidence suggests
that youth unemployment in Egypt is not only the result of queuing for public
employment but also to the dismal role played by the private sector in job creation
and in absorbing the unemployed.
6. Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
The results obtained from this study are of great concern to policy makers because of
the negative effects of unemployment on the loss of output, on the society and on the
psychological well being of the unemployed and immediate family members. In order
to formulate policies to curb the rising problem of unemployment in Egypt, it is
important not only to understand the effect of reforms on the incidence of
unemployment among the youth, but also on the duration of unemployment and, on
the probability of exiting unemployment and how it differs with demographic and
The evidence suggests that unemployment rates have increased after reforms in the
90s. In addition, youth unemployment has increased by more than 50 percent over this
period. Also unemployment seems to mostly affect the educated youth.
Examining unemployment duration, we find evidence to suggest that youth
unemployment is driven by the public sector hiring practices. The youth in Egypt still
expects the government to provide them with jobs and queue for public sector jobs, in
particular women. In addition, the private sector has been very slow in absorbing new
workers which has exacerbated the problem.
These findings have significant policy implications. The challenge of youth
employment has been at the center of the United Nations Millennium Development
Goals19. The four interconnected priorities identified by the UN Secretary General’s
High Level Panel on Youth Employment offer the starting point: employment
creation, employability, entrepreneurship, and equal opportunities for women and
men. Combining these four goals can achieve more and better quality employment for
young people. Youth unemployment in MENA generally and Egypt in particular
should not be viewed as a problem in itself, but rather as an untapped resource, only if
it is directed to the right path. In response to this challenge a number of policies are
suggested below to tackle the youth unemployment problem in Egypt:
1. It is vital for the government to change the perception and the expectations
about the role of the State as the main generator of employment in the economy. The
private sector should be seen as the engine of growth in the economy. But more
importantly, the private sector should be encouraged to create more jobs.
2. Youth unemployment is normally a result of low demand, lack of investment
and lack of development policies aimed at these types of workers. Besides,
stabilization adjustments results in further cuts in public spending. One highly popular
policy recommendation in international meetings is helping the private sector by
making it easier to start up a new business and grow it. This may take the form of
improving access to credits, facilitating innovation, and fostering inter-enterprise
3. Reducing the ever increasing youth labor supply by lowering birth rates.
Although Egypt has had great strides in that direction, there is still more room for
reduction. High birth rates are related normally to the absence of social security and
old age benefits. One of the immediate policy actions is improving such social
benefits. Higher levels of education, particularly for women, are another approach to
19 A framework of eight goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators to measure progress towards the
Millennium Development Goals was adopted by a consensus of experts from the United Nations
Secretariat and the ILO, the IMF, the OECD and the World Bank. For more details on the United Nations
Millennium Development Goals, see website: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/index.html
lower birth rates and ensuring lower drop-out rates is necessary for this policy to
4. The number of jobs available is not only the end goal of any successful policy,
the quality also is of great concern. Minimum wage policies have proved a valuable
safety net tool in many developed countries, and the effect on reduced employment is
still debatable. Minimum wage laws provide the protection against unfair wages,
income redistribution and alleviation of poverty. The fact that the current minimum
wage is already low, therefore does not perform the economic and social function, is a
problem to be solved first.
5. Sectoral policies are at the core of ILO recommendation for employment
generation. Targeting sectors that are capable of creating employment opportunities,
for example, sectors in which the growth is employment-intensive, or sectors that
feeds into other employment generating sectors, sectors that attract a large number of
youth, such as information technology sectors. Example of sectoral policies range
from agriculture subsidies (as in the US and EU); development banks that mobilize
capital (specially FDI) by extending long-term loans with favorable interest rates to
specific projects which help to execute development goals and have a high social rate
of return, (as in South Korea); to textiles and garments, medical equipment and
supplies, and agricultural commodities (as in Pakistan) where the country has good
export potentials , as well as the housing sector which is also labor intensive.
6. Promoting employment-intensive investment as in public works programs by
subcontracting public works to private small and medium-size enterprises, to use
surplus labor for the improvement of infrastructure, irrigation systems, forestation,
urban sanitation, schools or health centers. These programs also double as poverty
reduction, human resource skills development and community upgrading.
7. Vocational and labor market information is another route towards assisting the
youth. One successful example is Germany where on the job training is combined
with attendance at vocational education, giving the young the assurance that their
training/education will pay off, and the employers the chance to train and guarantee a
skilled labor for higher productivity. Employers are also rewarded for the
education/training they provide by the low wages trainees accept for the period of
Governmental intervention policies such as education, health, poverty reduction and
employment generation aimed at youth, despite its relative importance, are not
enough in themselves to make a structural impact. These policies should be integrated
with micro approaches, at the local level, linking issues of employment with
education, health and other social problems.
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ILO Unemployment Rates by Region in 1994 and 2004
Countries and EU Central and
East Asia South East Asia
and the Pacific South Asia Latin America &
Caribbean MENA Sub-Saharan
Source: ILO, Global Employment Trends 2005.
ILO Youth Unemployment Rates by Region and Gender in 2004
Countries and EU Central and
East Asia South East Asia
and the Pacific South Asia Latin America &
Caribbean MENA Sub-Saharan
Total Female Male
Source: ILO, Global Employment Trends 2005.
Table 1 : Descriptive Statistics
Variables Total Labor Force
Sample Youth Labor
Force Sample Total
1998 1988 1998 1988 1998 1988 1998 1988
Male 63.76 64.33 60.34 59.26 53.41 46.70 52.25 42.53
Head of Household 39.88 40.72 7.37 11.05 11.08 15.25 3.81 4.14
Married 64.07 68.57 25.98 39.67 25.14 33.90 14.53 22.53
Mean Age in years 35.36 34.28 22.50 22.41 25.04 25.38 22.23 21.80
Age groups (%)
15-19 10.12 12.54 27.33 29.76 19.74 24.67 24.05 30.11
20-24 13.57 13.74 36.66 32.60 40.77 38.98 49.65 47.59
25-29 13.33 15.86 36.01 37.64 21.59 18.27 26.30 22.30
30-39 25.75 24.72 --- --- 12.64 9.42 --- ---
40-49 20.85 16.96 --- --- 2.56 5.27 --- ---
50-59 13.32 12.36 --- --- 2.56 1.51 --- ---
60-64 3.06 3.81 0.14 1.88
Greater Cairo 16.38 20.20 14.65 19.26 18.47 35.03 17.99 33.10
Alex. &Suez Canal 10.24 8.18 8.53 7.73 14.77 11.68 13.67 10.57
Lower Urban 16.33 12.68 15.62 12.38 22.30 16.95 21.63 17.70
Upper Urban 18.22 9.01 17.68 8.34 14.63 13.37 14.88 15.17
Lower Rural 23.05 30.53 25.36 32.91 22.59 14.69 24.05 16.09
Upper Rural 15.77 19.40 18.18 19.39 7.24 8.29 7.79 7.36
Educational level (%)
Illiterate 26.95 45.51 18.61 39.57 7.39 14.50 3.81 7.59
Read & write 8.60 13.50 5.04 9.12 3.55 8.47 2.25 4.83
Primary 16.15 11.17 19.86 15.04 9.23 12.43 8.13 11.95
Intermediate 26.57 16.25 38.25 23.89 54.69 44.44 58.82 53.10
Secondary 6.63 3.44 6.80 4.24 10.23 6.40 10.73 7.59
University+ 15.11 10.13 11.43 8.13 14.91 13.75 16.26 14.94
Mother's illiterate 78.78 88.97 74.35 87.96 65.67 80.39 62.55 77.32
Father's illiterate 48.47 63.52 43.31 59.95 35.36 45.10 32.37 40.71
in months ---- --- ---- ---- 40.02 7.36 34.32 6.76
% Unemployed 8.14 5.67 18.05 11.05
Sample Size 8649 9336 3202 3935 704 531 578 435
Source: Authors' calculations from LFSS 1988 and ELMS 1998
Total and Youth Unemployment Rates in 1998
0 5 10 15 20
Percentage Married, 1988 and 1998
Youth Labor Force
Total Labor Force
Distribution of the Unemployed Youth by Age,
1988 and 1998
Table 2: Probability of Unemployment in 1998 & 1988: Marginal Effects:
Total Sample: 15-64 years of age
1 2 3 4 5
Variables Coeff t-stat Coeff t-stat Coeff t-stat Coeff t-stat
-3.71 -0.011 -2.63 -0.026 -7.24 -0.023 -6.07 *
Age groups (ref: 20-
-1.97 -0.010 -1.87 -0.001 -0.16 -0.005 -1.19
-6.21 -0.022 -5.09 -0.023 -7.39 -0.023 -6.99
-15.34 -0.056 -13.80 -0.041 -12.11 -0.041 -11.68 *
-15.08 -0.070 -14.00 -0.036 -10.24 -0.036 -10.01 *
-12.07 -0.050 -11.45 -0.037 -8.93 -0.037 -8.94 *
-5.00 -0.040 -4.92 -0.021 -3.59 -0.021 -3.64 *
Region (ref. Greater
Alex. & Suez Canal 0.022 2.69 0.024 2.77 -0.004 -0.82 -0.008 -1.69
Lower Urban 0.008 1.19 0.007 0.93 -0.010 -2.39 -0.012 -2.92 *
Upper Urban -0.019 -3.40 -0.015 -2.39 -0.007 -1.48 -0.010 -2.17
Lower Rural -0.008 -1.38 -0.005 -0.80 -0.033 -8.40 -0.037 -9.12 *
Upper Rural -0.032 -5.44 -0.028 -4.53 -0.026 -6.14 -0.028 -6.46 *
Read & write 0.024 1.87 0.010 0.84 0.032 4.07 0.030 3.59 *
Primary 0.005 0.58 -0.001 -0.10 0.031 4.17 0.029 3.65 *
9.23 0.070 7.68 0.078 10.65 0.072 8.92 *
6.38 0.067 4.95 0.057 4.90 0.055 4.42 *
5.04 0.028 2.70 0.056 6.22 0.054 5.16 *
Mother's illiterate -0.008 -1.70 0.006 1.34
Father's illiterate 0.002 0.39 0.002 0.58
Base 0.040 0.035 0.027 0.027
Sample Size 8631 7313 9336 8432
Log Likelihood -1909.792 -1503.957 -1610.061 -1422.594
Source: Authors' calculations from LFSS 1988 and ELMS 1998.
Notes: Robust standard errors are used.
1 Includes mother and father illiterate dummies (smaller sample).
2 Column 5: * refers to the difference in the marginal effect between 1998 and 1988 being statistically significant at the
5% level or better; i.e. the marginal effect in 1998 is not equal to that of 1988. Based on columns 1 and 3.
Table 3: Probability of Youth Unemployment in 1998 & 1988: Marginal Effects
15-29 years of age
1 2 3 4 5
1998 19981 1988 19881
Variables Coeff t-stat Coeff t-stat Coeff t-stat Coeff t-stat
-3.38 -0.039 -2.74 -0.059 -7.01 -0.052 -5.92 *
Age groups (ref. 20-24)
15-19 -0.004 -0.27 -0.002 -0.09 0.019 1.88 0.010 0.99 *
-6.36 -0.081 -5.18 -0.063 -7.04 -0.061 -6.58 *
Region (ref. Greater
Alex. &Suez Canal 0.074 2.64 0.107 3.27 -0.003 -0.18 -0.016 -1.21
Lower Urban 0.032 1.45 0.015 0.61 -0.007 -0.65 -0.012 -1.03
Upper Urban -0.046 -2.28 -0.028 -1.17 0.009 0.71 0.002 0.14
Lower Rural 0.001 0.05 0.016 0.67 -0.056 -5.57 -0.065 -6.18 *
Upper Rural -0.079 -3.67 -0.077 -3.12 -0.049 -4.39 -0.051 -4.44 *
Educational level (ref.
Read & write 0.095 2.03 0.048 0.90 0.090 3.79 0.084 3.26 *
2.36 0.065 1.87 0.113 5.62 0.109 5.11 *
10.70 0.296 9.38 0.254 12.75 0.248 11.15 *
8.92 0.393 7.39 0.272 7.65 0.273 7.06 *
8.95 0.333 6.80 0.322 9.85 0.324 8.41 *
Mother's illiterate -0.015 -0.83 0.010 0.85
Father's illiterate -0.012 -0.73 0.004 0.45
Base 0.142 0.137 0.063 0.061
Sample Size 3192 2465 3935 3436
Log Likelihood -1309.678 -994.789 -1085.224 -925.374
Source: Authors' calculations from LFSS 1988 and ELMS 1998
Robust standard errors are used.
1 Includes mother and father illiterate dummies (smaller sample)
2 Column 5: * refers to the difference in the marginal effect between 1998 and 1988 being statistically
significant at the 5% level or better; i.e. the marginal effect in 1998 is not equal to that of 1988. Based on
columns 1 and 3.
Predicted Probability of Unemployment by Education in 1998
Illiterate Read & write Less than
intermediate Intermediate Higher than
intermediate Univ ersity &
Note: The predicted probability is for a male, 25 years of age living in Greater Cairo.
Source: Authors' calculations from LFSS 1988 and ELMS 1998
Distribution of Youth Unemplo
ment Duration b
Table 4: Number and Duration of Youth Unemployment Spells by Gender
Male Female Total
Number of spells 18048 27186 45234
Mean duration (months) 33.57 45.73 40.88
Standard Deviation 31.64 38.24 36.25
Median duration (months) 23 35 30
Table 5: Discrete Time Proportional Hazard for Unemployment Duration
Exit to Public Sector Employment Exit to Private Sector Employment
Variables Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2
Coeff. t-stat Coeff. t-stat Coeff. t-stat Coeff. t-stat
Male 0.354 2.51 0.485 2.72 1.817 8.95 2.170 7.59
Age at start of
Unemployment: ref: 15-19
years of age
20-24 0.570 3.56 0.709 3.48 0.135 0.74 0.181 0.75
25-29 0.179 0.63 0.367 1.05 -0.162 -0.49 0.011 0.03
Educational level: (ref.
Read & write 1.611 1.60 1.669 1.55 -0.107 -0.25 -0.071 -0.11
Primary 2.575 3.33 2.813 3.35 0.047 0.15 0.134 0.29
Intermediate 3.383 4.58 3.785 4.59 -0.800 -2.85 -1.173 -2.62
Secondary 3.448 4.51 3.834 4.50 -0.141 -3.28 -2.000 -3.20
University+ 4.033 5.37 4.543 5.31 -0.263 -0.77 -0.548 -1.10
Region of Residence: (ref.
Alex & Canal Cities 0.300 1.44 0.197 0.79 -0.159 -0.66 -0.059 -0.19
Lower Urban 0.033 0.17 -0.077 -0.32 -0.892 -3.57 -1.027 -3.20
Upper Urban 0.013 0.07 -0.077 -0.32 -0.697 -2.76 -0.768 -2.38
Lower Rural -0.555 -2.01 -0.767 -2.35 -1.176 -4.24 -1.436 -3.89
Upper Rural 0.330 1.17 0.303 0.90 -0.433 -1.43 -0.606 -1.50
Log of Unemployment
Duration 0.491 7.15 0.679 5.09 0.637 6.83 0.997 5.00
Year entered unemployment -0.078 -10.17 -0.086 -8.65 0.067 4.86 0.084 4.72
Gamma Variance 0.384 1.59 1.160 1.98
Number of obs (person
months) 45198 45198 45198 45198
Log Likelihood -1552.14 -1550.43 -1036.514 -1033.145
Source: Authors' calculations from LFSS 1988 and ELMS 1998