Navigating the Egyptian Job Market

I recently quit my job in pursuit of a different career path. We are taught in “Job-Hunting 101” that you should never quit your job unless you’ve secured another position or opportunity in its place, and I followed these instructions with particular care. As I’ve just mentioned in my topic sentence, I quit to purse a different path: education. The plan was that I begin a graduate program at the start of the new academic year (September), however this plan crumbled due to forces that were beyond my control. As a result I had to withdraw my acceptance and start looking for a new job. But in a country like Egypt this is one of the worst sentences you ever want to hear, let alone utter.

Ask any fresh graduate or unemployed 20-somthing year old and they will recite their tales of woes about the treacherous job market, especially if that poor soul holds a degree in the arts, the humanities, social sciences like me.  While youth unemployment has become a global epidemic, the situation in Egypt grows bleaker ever year. This isn’t to say that there aren’t any jobs in a city (Greater Cairo where I live) of over twenty million residents, the problem is vastly more complex.

Looking for a White Collar Job in Cairo:

Most Required Majors (seriously most by far): Business, Marketing, Mass Communication, Finance, Accounting, Economics, Computer Science, Computer and Electrical Engineering. [Job-specific majors, like medicine, are not included]

Why?

The majority of jobs in Cairo are corporate jobs. While I have nothing against corporations, not every single graduate wants to work in business.

Location & Transportation: to say that transportation in Cairo is an inconvenience is like saying that childbirth is a mild discomfort. Whether you have a car or commute using public transport, you will find the experience irritating at best and entirely intolerable at five. Between the traffic, the increase in oil prices, the lack of parking (it has been a running gag for years) and the sheer size of Cairo (including the suburbs), transportation is a real obstacle when looking for employment. While some are willing to sacrifice time, effort and money because they are desperate for a job, many can not.

Take it from someone who spent twenty years in long commutes: 2-4 hrs each day  depending on traffic, and on very rare occasions it took even longer.

Salary (the monster in the room): Low salaries or salaries that cannot cover one’s expenses are the norm across the country, particularly when you’re just starting. Employers assume that because unemployment is rampant that people would accept any salary however low, and most people do. But some employers take this to an extreme, including those who don’t provide employees with formal contracts, others who think that employees shouldn’t be compensated for over-time or for running company-related errands, and so on and so forth. This kind of mistreatment has a detrimental effect on the employees psychological well-being and the quality of the work he/she produces (very common problem).

Lack of Variety (finding the right job): like I’ve mentioned above, it’s all about corporate jobs. Why? Because they’re the most stable, with the most reasonable salary-schemes. And when you live in a country with an unstable economy, you need a stable income. But if you’re not interested in a corporate job, well then you’ll face a serious struggle.

Now that I’ve provided my own amateur assessment of the Egyptian job-market, based on personal experiences, please let me know if you have any career-related opinions in the comments below. And while this article is country-specific, some of these issues are universal, so don’t shy away from commenting just because you live in another country or region.🙂