Monthly Archives: November, 2013

Female breadwinners struggle as Egypt’s economy deteriorates

An interesting article published Tuesday, November 12, 2013  on Aswat Masriya site, referring to the report issued by Thomson Reuters Foundation on women’s rights in the Arab World, and shedding light on gender based discrimination affecting many women in the workplace, in particular female breadwinners working in the informal economy
A woman sells vegetables in downtown – Aswat Masriya

By Arwa Gaballa

CAIRO, Nov 12 (Aswat Masriya) – Women are the main breadwinners in as many as 30 percent of Egyptian households, a role frowned on by conservative Egyptian society but increasingly important in a country plunged into dire economic straits by the turbulent politics of the post-Mubarak era.

Many of them are poor, illiterate and lacking experience of formal employment, and are forced into menial work in the informal economy, doing poorly paid jobs with no insurance or pension and involving exposure to the public gaze that attracts the disapproval of neighbours.

“Things were difficult before the uprising too, with those in power robbing us, but at least the little we had was enough to live on,” said Zeinab Abdel Fattah, 64. “Now we have nothing. Life has become unbearable.”

Abdel Fattah, who has a family of eight, leaves her home every morning at 6 a.m. for the city centre. Sitting cross-legged on a platform in the heart of Cairo, she sells eggs, eggplants and cottage cheese to passersby, but often returns empty-handed.

“No one buys anything anymore,” she said.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll of gender experts found Egypt to be the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman, due to endemic sexual harassment, a surge in trafficking, high rates of female genital mutilation and a rollback of freedoms since the revolution.

Egypt scored badly on work-related issues, too. Gender-based discrimination affects many women in the workplace and is rarely punished, respondents said.

While many Egyptian women have to work because their husbands died or divorced or abandoned them, others, like Abdel Fattah, support their family because their husband’s pension is small or his work is irregular or unstable.

“My husband was only a worker before he retired; he can’t read, you see. Now his pension is  500 Egyptian pounds ($72.57), which is not enough to feed us.”

Mona Ezzat of the New Woman Foundation, an advocacy group, said that while official data estimate 16 percent of Egyptian breadwinners are women, independent sources put the figure as high as 30 percent.

“Because the majority of these women are impoverished and thus are mostly illiterate and have no skills or experience, they resort to the informal economy, cleaning houses, street vending and so on,” she said.

The problem with working in the informal economy is that these women are not entitled to pensions or health or social insurance, and they are often exposed to physical and psychological violence that they cannot challenge, as they enjoy no legal protection.

Even if Abdel Fattah’s thin grey hair weren’t showing beneath her worn-out headscarf, the wrinkles on her tired face, her missing teeth and rough, dirty hands were evidence of the difficult life she leads.

Like her husband, Abdel Fattah cannot read or write, but all her children can.

“My six children can read. Some of my children even went to university!” she said proudly with a big smile. “That was when things were easier, before they got this bad.”

The New Woman Foundation’s Ezzat said: “The struggles of breadwinners have worsened as Egypt’s economy deteriorated.” She added that there is no real plan for economic growth, as can be seen from the increase in the number of street vendors struggling to scrape a living.

The economy grew by 7 percent a year in the period leading to the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 — part of the Arab Spring that swept North Africa — but has since slowed sharply because of the collapse of tourism and the fall in foreign investment.

GDP growth last year was only 2.1 percent, down from 2.2 percent in 2011, the state news agency reported earlier this month — worryingly low for a country whose population of 85 million suffers from high unemployment and is expected to reach 100 million by 2030.

Price rises have put many goods beyond the reach of average households, and this has led the government to draw up a plan to distribute basic supplies at subsidized prices.


In Abdel Fattah’s case, her already grinding burden is made worse by her neighbours’ criticism of her for working at her age, “as if it was by choice”.

“They think there is a lot of money in what I do,” she laughed, adding that her neighbours mock her for having to work when she has six grown-up children.

Ezzat explains that the way female breadwinners are viewed and treated in Egypt is a psychological burden, especially as many of them live in poor areas which tend to be more conservative and more critical.

Female breadwinners are often criticised for spending too much time outside their home without a male figure around, a cultural judgment that is not limited to poor neighbourhoods, Ezzat said.

Neighbourly criticism and social pressure often force these women either to take their sons out of school and send them off to work in their place, or to marry off their daughters quickly to shift the responsibility for earning the family income to their husbands.

“The sons are deprived of getting an education and the daughters are married off before their time,” Ezzat said.


Rights activists and women’s rights organizations in the Middle East posted their thoughts on female breadwinners in a Twitter campaign on Saturday.

Hundreds of activists around the Middle East joined the online debate, using the hashtags “#Loqmet3ish” and “#anahunna”. The first hashtag, Loqmet3ish, means “a piece of bread”, an Arabic phrase used widely to describe making a living.

The campaign, organized by Ana Hunna (I Am Here), said that women are the main supporters of 33 percent of Egyptian households and families.

“Despite the fact that norms (are) transforming in Egypt, women are still generally defined as dependants and subordinate to men,” Ana Hunna posted on its account.

Ana Hunna started out in 2011 as an online campaign to empower working women, but gradually expanded and now aspires to become an actual initiative, one of the organizers, Esraa Saleh, told Aswat Masriya.

The campaign used to depend on making films to raise awareness of the need for gender equality in employment, but it is now looking for more activities that could have a greater impact on the ground, Saleh said.

“If we (female breadwinners) decide to not work for just one week, this society will be paralyzed,” Rana Allam wrote on Twitter.

“It’s time we recognized Arab women; the real heroes of our generation,” said Hebbah Hussein, another participant in the campaign. “Mothers and breadwinners will shape Egypt’s future.”


الأردن: 44 في المئة العاملين في القطاع غير المنظم

الأردن: 44 في المئة العاملين في القطاع غير المنظم

عّمان – نورما نعمات

السبت ١٦ نوفمبر ٢٠١٣

أعلن الأمين العام لوزارة العمل الأردنية حمادة ابو نجمة أن تزايد نسبةالعاملين في القطاع غير المنظم بلغت 44 في المئة من إجمالي العاملين، 26 فيالمئة منهم في القطاع الخاص و17 في المئة يعملون لحسابهم الخاص وواحد فيالمئة للعمال في المنازل من دون أجر.

وأضاف خلال مشاركته في ورشة عمل وطنية حول القطاع غير المنظم وأثره علىالاقتصاد الوطني أن «ما يزيد على ثلثي مشاريع هذا القطاع لم يتجاوزرأسمالها 500 دينار، موضحاً أن الطابع العائلي يغلب على ملكية المؤسساتالعاملة في القطاع بما نسبته 77 في المئة. ولفت إلى أن 35 في المئة منالعاملين هم من الذكور و11 في المئة الإناث، وتراوح متوسط ساعات عملهم بين 9و16 ساعة يومياً.

وأشار أبو نجمة إلى أن العاملين غير الحاصلين على الثانوية العامةيشكلون 56.3 في المئة، فيما تلقى 43.7 في المئة منهم تعليماً ثانوياً أوأكثر، موضحاً أن 82.9 في المئة منهم تراوح أعمارهم بين 20 و49 عاماً.


تراجع دور الدولة الاقتصادي

وعزا ظهور هذا القطاع إلى تراجع دور الدولة في الحياة الاقتصادية وبطءنمو الاقتصاد الرسمي وارتفاع نسب البطالة نتيجة غياب المهارات المناسبةوالمطلوبة للوظائف المتاحة بسبب الأمية والجهل، إلى جانب الهجرة المتزايدةللأيدي العاملة الماهرة وغير الماهرة من الريف إلى المدن، ما أدى إلى تزايدإفقار الريف وسهولة التهرب من العملية التنظيمية المحلية مثل الضرائبوالرسوم والتسريح المتزايد للأيدي العاملة نتيجة المنافسة الدولية ونتائجالعولمة، فضلاً عن تدني مستوى الأجور. وأشار إلى استحواذ إقليم الوسط علىأكثر من نصف العاملين في هذا القطاع بما نسبته 57 في المئة في مقابل 24.9في المئة في إقليم الشمال و18.1 في المئة في إقليم الجنوب.

وبيّن أن من الصعوبات التي تحول دون تنظيم القطاع حصول العاملين فيه علىالحقوق والامتيازات المنصوص عليها في القوانين المعمول بها، وعدم شمولهمبالضمان الاجتماعي، وصعوبة ظروف بيئة العمل، وعدم الالتزام بمعايير الصحةوالسلامة العامة.




Study finds 44% of Jordan’s labour in shadow economy

by Laila Azzeh |

AMMAN — Around 44 per cent of Jordan’s workforce in 2010 operated in the shadow economy, according to a study announced on Wednesday.

“This magnitude requires intensified efforts to regulate the underground sector,’ Planning and International Cooperation Minister Jafar Hassan said during a press conference that revealed the results of the report, which was carried out in cooperation with the UN Development Programme, the Economic and Social Council with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation.

The grey market is characterised as salaried labourers who work in the private sector without contracts or social security, unpaid labourers or the self-employed.

“This is the first in-depth study of the informal sector, whose volume has always been underestimated,” Hassan said stressing that the survey is important in guaranteeing the quality of services provided to citizens through the underground market.

Noting that 56 per cent of the total labour force works in the formal sector (34 per cent in the public sector and 22 per cent in the private sector), the study showed that 26 per cent of informal workers were from the private sector, 17 per cent were self-employed and 1 per cent worked at (family businesses) without wages.

From a gender perspective, male informal workers constituted 48 per cent of the total workforce, while informal female labourers stood at 27 per cent of the total number of employed women in Jordan.

Of the total informal male workers, 19 per cent were self-employed, 28 per cent worked in the private sector and 1 per cent were unpaid, whereas informal female labourers in the private sector accounted for 17 per cent, 7 per cent were self-employed and 3 per cent were unpaid.

“Informal employment is traditionally associated with inferior earnings and wage inequality or emanating from mainstream poverty. But this is not necessarily the case, as some informal labourers are leading successful businesses and others are also working in the public sector,” Hassan highlighted.

According to the study, 30 per cent of informal workers was in the crafts sector, followed by services and suppliers, 24 per cent and then machine operators 17 per cent.

In high administrative jobs, the informal labour was a meager 0.4 per cent.

The concentration was in the retail, wholesale and vehicle repair sectors, at 30 per cent, followed by the manufacturing, 18.6 per cent, transport and stocking, 11.7 per cent and construction, 11.1 per cent.

Informal workers are less likely to engage in the ICT, hotels, education, health, agriculture and social services fields.

The study highlighted that, at 32.4 per cent, retail and wholesale trade, vehicle and motorcycles repair employed the highest number of informal male workers. Most informal female labourers were employed in the social services and healthcare services, 17 per cent.

Guest workers in the underground market constituted 25 per cent of those working in the private sector, showed the study, indicating that foreign labourers are mainly employed in small-and-micro enterprises.

Almost 80 per cent of informal labourers are not given work leaves, even in cases of illness or injury, and face job insecurity.

“We have conducted this study to regulate the informal market and ensure that workers are being granted their full rights, particularly health insurance and social security umbrellas,” the minister underlined.

He said the second phase of the study is in the pipeline, which includes a panoramic study on the informal sector in order to diagnose reasons behind employers’ preference for this sector, the impact of the under-the-table pay on workers and whether it is better to turn the sector into an official one and consequences associated with such a step.

The study will also address the impact of the unofficial sector on the overall economy, said Hassan.

The survey involved a sample of 5,760 families drawn from the 2004 General Census of Population and Housing.

The study was based on the 2010 Labour Market Survey carried out by the Department of Statistics in cooperation with Al Manar Project and the Economic Research Forum in Cairo.


أوضاع حقوق المرأة والإنسان في مصر

FACTBOX-Women’s rights in the Arab world

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Tue, 12 Nov 2013 12:01 AM

Nov 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.

Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.

Questions were based on key provisions of the U.N. Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which 19 Arab states have signed or ratified.

The poll assessed violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

Experts were asked to respond to statements and rate the importance of factors affecting women’s rights across the six categories. Their responses were converted into scores, which were averaged to create a ranking.

Here are key facts on women’s rights in the 22 states surveyed, listed from worst to best.


Sexual violence, harassment and trafficking combined with a breakdown of security, high rates of female genital mutilation and a rollback of freedoms since the 2011 revolution put Egypt at the bottom of the poll.

* 99.3 percent of women and girls are subjected to sexual harassment.

* 27.2 million women and girls – or 91 percent of the female population – are victims of female genital mutilation (FGM).

* 63 percent of adult women are literate.

(Sources: U.N. Women, UNICEF, World Bank)

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Zayee Zayak

Many Societies Gradually Moving to Dismantle Gender Discrimination, Yet More Can Be Done, Says World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim


September 24, 2013

Out of 143 economies surveyed at least 90 percent had one or more legal differences that hinder women’s ability to work and open businesses, according to the report Women, Business and the Law 2014, issued jointly by the World Bank Group and the International Finance Corporation (IFC.)


LONDON, September 24, 2013 —A new World Bank and IFC report finds legal and regulatory barriers to women’s economic inclusion have decreased over the past 50 years globally, but many laws still hinder women’s participation in the economy. Laws restricting women’s economic activity are currently most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The third in a series, Women, Business and the Law 2014: Removing Restrictions to Enhance Gender Equality monitors regulations affecting women entrepreneurs and employees in 143 economies. This edition highlights reforms carried out over the past two years, examines the evolution of women’s property rights and legal decision making ability since 1960 and expands coverage to examine legal protections addressing violence against women.

“The ideal of equality before the law and equality of economic opportunity isn’t just wise social policy: It’s smart economic policy,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “When women and men participate in economic life on an equal footing, they can contribute their energies to building a more cohesive society and a more resilient economy. The surest way to help enrich the lives of families, communities and economies is to allow every individual to live up to her or his fullest creative potential.”

“Our latest edition of Women, Business and the Law shows that many societies have made progress, gradually moving to dismantle ingrained forms of discrimination against women,” said Kim. “Yet a great deal remains to be done.”

This report finds 44 economies have made 48 legal changes, thus increasing women’s economic opportunities over the past two years. Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, the Philippines and the Slovak Republic had the most reforms. Among the reforms, husbands can no longer unilaterally stop their wives from working in Côte d’Ivoire and Mali, the Philippines has lifted restrictions on night work for women, and the Slovak Republic increased the percentage of wages paid during maternity leave.

The report finds economies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the most extensive lists of jobs women cannot do. For example, in the Russian Federation women cannot drive trucks in the agricultural sector, in Belarus they cannot be carpenters and in Kazakhstan they cannot be welders. These restrictions may have arisen from a desire to protect women, but can limit their employment options. The report shows economies with the most job restrictions on women have lower female participation in the formal labor force.

“Progress on gender equality under the law is accelerating,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, Director, Global Indicators and Analysis, World Bank Group. “Our data shows that over the past 50 years countries everywhere have started removing long-standing restrictions on women’s ability to participate more fully in the economy. Although the progress has been uneven across the world, there is widespread recognition that the economic empowerment of women is crucial for competitiveness and prosperity.”

Between 1960 and 2010, more than half the restrictions on women’s property rights and ability to conduct legal transactions were removed in the 100 economies examined. Restrictions in three regions – Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and East Asia and the Pacific – were cut in half. While some restrictions were removed in South Asia and in the Middle East and North Africa, these two regions reformed the least.

Another major innovation in the report is new data on the existence and scope of laws on two areas of violence against women: sexual harassment and domestic violence. Covering 100 economies, the data show that prohibitions against sexual harassment in the workplace are widespread – 78 economies have legislation and over half of these criminalize the behavior. Legislation on domestic violence is also widespread –76 economies have laws prohibiting domestic violence. The region with the fewest laws on domestic violence is the Middle East and North Africa.

The report shows lower gender legal parity is associated with fewer women participating in firm ownership, while policies encouraging women to join and remain in the labor force are associated with greater income equality. Even though the report offers signs of improvement for women’s economic opportunities globally, it shows economies can do more to ensure women’s participation in economic life.

About the Women, Business and the Law Report series:

Women, Business and the Law measures how laws, regulations and institutions differentiate between women and men in ways that may affect women’s incentives or capacity to work or to set up and run a business. It analyzes legal differences on the basis of gender in 143 economies, covering six areas: gaining access to institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. The project provides a clear picture of gender gaps based on legal differences in each economy, but it does not capture the full extent of the gender gap, nor does it indicate the relative importance of each aspect covered. This year’s report was published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

About the World Bank Group

The World Bank Group is one of the world’s largest sources of funding and development expertise for developing countries. It comprises five closely associated institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA), which together form the World Bank; the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Each institution plays a distinct role in pursuing the World Bank Group’s mission to fight poverty and improve living standards for people in the developing world. For more information, please visit,, and




De nombreux pays évoluent progressivement vers l’éradication des discriminations fondées sur le sexe, mais il est possible de faire mieux, déclare Jim Yong Kim, président du Groupe Banque mondiale

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In 15 countries, women cannot work without their husband’s permission

Dans quinze pays, les femmes ne peuvent travailler sans l’accord de leur mari

Le avec AFP

En iran, la législation donne le droit aux hommes de s'opposer à ce que leurs femmes travaillent.

Dans pas moins de quinze pays, les femmes ne peuvent pas travailler sans avoir l’autorisation de leur mari, selon un rapport de la Banque mondiale, paru mardi 24 septembre. “De nombreuses sociétés ont accompli des progrès, s’engageant petit à petit à supprimer les formes tenaces de discrimination contre les femmes, mais il reste encore beaucoup à faire”, souligne le président de la Banque mondiale, Jim Yong-kim, en préambule du rapport sur les “Femmes, les affaires et le droit”.

Parmi les 143 pays couverts par ce rapport, 15 – dont l’Iran, la Syrie, la Bolivie ou le Gabon – donnent le droit aux hommes de “s’opposer” à ce que leur femme travaille, et à les “empêcher d’accepter un emploi”. En Guinée, par exemple, elles doivent saisir les tribunaux pour faire annuler la décision de leur mari de s’opposer, “au nom des intérêts de la famille” à ce qu’elles entrent dans la vie active. A noter qu’en Russie, 456 professions, telles que conducteur de camion agricole, aiguilleur de trains ou plombier, leur sont d’office interdites, indique la Banque mondiale.


Dans au moins 29 pays, tels que l’Arabie saoudite, le Honduras, le Sénégal, la loi fait par ailleurs systématiquement des hommes les “chefs de famille”, et leur confie ainsi le contrôle de “décisions cruciales” sur le choix du lieu de vie, l’obtention de documents officiels ou l’ouverture d’un compte bancaire.

La Banque mondiale rappelle que certains pays occidentaux ont eux aussi tardé à accorder l’égalité de droits entre sexes. L’Espagne a ainsi attendu 1981 pour permettre aux femmes de se pourvoir en justice sans l’assentiment de leur mari.

Ce rapport recense par ailleurs un certain nombre d’avancées mondiales. En deux ans, 48 changements de législation, répartis dans 44 pays, ont “accru” la parité hommes-femmes, notamment en Côte d’Ivoire où les femmes sont, depuis 2013, libres de travailler sans l’accord de leur mari.

Ces progrès sont parfois fragiles, souligne le rapport, qui pointe les récents “revirements législatifs” en Egypte où des règles constitutionnelles de non-discrimination sexuelle ont été supprimées avec l’arrivée au pouvoir des Frères musulmans, depuis écartés du pouvoir.

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