CFYE strives to disrupt the employment status quo for young Egyptian women. We are calling for innovative private-sector solutions that actively address barriers and create new spaces for women to participate equally in the Egyptian workforce. Any Egypt specific questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In recent years, the unemployment rate for Egyptian youth aged 15- 24 has been hovering at around 30%. The situation is especially dire for young women – 49.5% of them are not in employment, education or training, compared to 9.3% of young men. If a woman does find a formal job, the chances of her progressing to a leadership position are slim, with only 5% of Egyptian firms having a woman in a top management position. All this, despite the rapid growth in women’s educational attainment in the last decades, to the point where today, women outnumber men in tertiary education.
Formal, decent jobs in the private sector are scarce, especially outside Greater Cairo and Alexandria. The economy is not growing fast enough to absorb the surge of new entrants to the labour market, and millions of youth with no other option resort to precarious, often dangerous work in the informal sector. There is clearly an urgent need for new opportunities for decent, productive employment for young people, particularly for young women.
Call for Solutions
So, Implementing Partners’ solutions should focus on:
- Ideas for enabling women to work flexibly, for example in working hours or location, while maintaining job stability and ensuring the flexibility of the job doesn’t come with trade-offs in decent work aspects (see below for examples).
- Ideas that advance the decent work agenda, focusing on several of the following aspects:
- Living income / wage, in particular focusing on redressing the gender wage gap by supporting women into jobs in higher paid sectors and occupations or into senior positions within firms, and improving their career prospects in general.
- Security in the workplace, including physical safety provisions that take into account the particular needs of women (e.g. safe transport to and from work, appropriate bathroom facilities, etc.) and protection against psychosocial hazards such as sexual harassment or discrimination (e.g. social support systems for workers, etc.).
- Social protection for families, which does not reinforce women’s traditional roles and responsibilities, but contributes to the transformation of gender relations in economic and social spheres (e.g. maternity leave, childcare provision or subsidies for working mothers or single fathers to access childcare, strengthening young women’s agency and participation in social protection design and delivery, etc.).
- Prospects for personal development and social integration, for example by conducting risk assessments of how a job or a promotion within a job might affect how a worker is perceived and treated in their family and community, and deploying strategies to mitigate against any harm (e.g. community outreach activities to protect women employees against domestic recriminations for working).
- Equality of opportunity and treatment, for example, applying a gender and inclusion lens to HR practices, especially at hiring and promotion stages (avoiding highly masculinised language in job descriptions, avoiding unconscious bias in training, establishing clear evaluation criteria, etc.)
We prioritise projects in certain sectors, identified through our scoping research as holding the most potential for creating decent work for youth, with a focus on young women. We also prioritise projects that expand their operating focus beyond Greater Cairo. Although no sector will be ruled out upfront, our prioritised sectors are:
- Agriculture: Egypt’s largest sector by employment share for women and men alike. Post-harvest processing jobs in agro-exports can be important sources of employment growth for rural women. We also see opportunities for youth in new areas like ag-tech, logistics, processing and ecological waste management.
- Retail trade: Significant opportunities for young women, particularly through innovative approaches to last mile distribution and e-commerce.
- Manufacturing: High demand for skilled workers; most TVET graduates do not meet industry requirements. Innovative models that combine training and apprenticeship may address this issue. Subsectors such as apparel and food processing present lots of opportunities for SMEs and for creating productive employment for young women especially.
- ICT / Digital businesses: A lot of growth potential, varying from e-lancing to e-commerce, including ag-tech, fintech, health-tech and ed-tech; strong potential for flexible work. Highly resilient, ‘future-proof’ sector. The sector can absorb youth with tertiary level qualifications, who cannot find decent work so remain unemployed and economically inactive.
- (Renewable) energy: Growth and labour demand driven by increased investment in sector by government and foreign investors. There is also high demand for blue collar workers.
- Health Services: Traditionally major employer of women. Many opportunities for private sector companies and (angel) investors, in particular in health-tech enterprises. The sector can absorb highly educated youth, responding to growing numbers of unemployed university graduates.
- Hospitality Services: One of the industries most affected by COVID-19. Recovery will take time, but innovative approaches to create or sustain may apply. Great potential to improve working conditions in this sector, by formalizing certain subsectors (such as cleaning).
- SME support / Accelerators / Business angels: Young, creative entrepreneurs can create new growth opportunities for the economy as a whole. Access to finance is an important constraint for early stage companies, thus limiting their growth potential.
We invited all private companies that wish to invest in projects that generate (or sustain) decent employment for young people (aged 18 to 35), especially young women, to present proposals for funding from CFYE.
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- Focus on Private Sector: Only projects presented by private sector firms are eligible.
- Priority for Jobs for Women: Projects should create, match, improve or sustain at least 250 jobs for young women or, if the total youth employment created, matched, improved or sustained is above 500, at least 50% jobs for women.
- Leverage: The minimum contribution of the fund is € 200,000. This should be matched by a co-investment that is at least equal to the grant requested.
- Decent work: For any job created, matched, improved or sustained, the working week should be at least 24 hours and at most 48 hours (including irregular overtime). The gross income / wage for one full-time equivalent (FTE) should be at least EGP 2,370 a month.
- Resilience: able to adapt and pivot rapidly to threats such as Covid-19, and support employees to withstand shocks and stress resulting from those threats.
The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment will apply a competitive process to select the projects that will receive a grant. That means that only those projects that present a clear and convincing pathway to employment, lead to significant and sustainable results in terms of decent employment for youth, with a focus on young women, and can demonstrate high leverage will be selected.
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The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and managed by Palladium, in partnership with VSO and Randstad. This call for concept notes is the first stage of the application process, and successful applicants will progress through to the next round, where they will be invited to submit a detailed proposal and business case.
Featured Image: © Claudia Schillinger