“The wage gap cannot be bridged” .. Women face wage discrimination in both the public and private sectors

By Menna Abdel Razek

Since the beginning of her work 20 years ago, every morning, Hanaa goes to work in the desert of Minya Governorate while one question echoes in her ears.

On a very sunny day, with sweat pouring from Hanaa’s brow as she was collecting the Levantine maize crop in the Upper Egypt desert, she decided to ask her supervisor: 

“Why do men earn twice the monthly salary of women, even though they perform the same tasks and work the same number of hours? 

Her supervisor reprimanded her and slapped her on the face, saying: “These are our customs and traditions. Women receive half of the men’s salary.”

 He added, “A man is a man, and a woman is a woman.. Be thankful that you have a job. If you do not like it, you can leave.”


The Wage Gap Cannot Be Bridged


“The wage gap…. A violation of the law”

Egypt ranked number 129 out of 146 countries in the total gender wage gap index for 2022.

While it ranked at number 143 in the gap between gender participation in the labor market,.

 This violates Egyptian Labor Law, in light of the absence of any role from the workforce, the “National Council for Women,” the “National Council of Wages,” and the Manpower Committee in the House of Representatives.

Article 35 of the Labor Law of 2003 prohibits wage discrimination based on gender, origin, language, or creed.

In 2022, the American University in Cairo released a study titled “The Wage Gap between genders in Egypt.” 

The study was based on an analysis of Mobilization and Statistics and the Economic Research Forum data from 2006 to 2018. 

It proved that the Egyptian labor market is not an encouraging environment for promoting opportunities for gender equality.

It also showed that women are vulnerable to labor market marginalization, particularly among lower-paid groups. 

The data showed that over 12 years, the wage gap did not narrow, but rather increased. 

According to data analysis, this disparity is equivalent to a 28% difference in income between men and women in the public and private sectors.

While the study divided workers into ten income groups, from lowest to highest, it was discovered that the percentage of the gap is growing among low-income groups, such as female workers. 

The wage gap in the first bracket reached 49%, the second 32%, the eighth 15%, and the ninth 15.8 %.

For the purpose of completing this investigation, we analyzed the data of the workers’ wages bulletin issued by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics between 2019 and 2021.

It was found that 61% of female workers in the government sector, and 67% of female workers in the private sector, receive lower salaries than men.

We also carried out a number of field visits, which documented cases of workers who were subjected to wage discrimination.

Over five years, the average wage for women has decreased.

According to a study by the American University, 44% of women have a university degree, while 20% of men do. 

ItThe study also showed that approximately 40% of men have professional certificates, compared to 29% of women. 

Despite this, men account for 83% of the labor force, while women account for only 17%. 

It is worth noting that the average wage for women fell by 226 Egyptian pounds in the public sector and 24 Egyptian pounds in the private sector in 2021, compared to 2020. 

According to the Public Mobilization and Statistics Authority, men’s wages in the public sector increased by 89 Egyptian pounds, and in the private sector by 38 Egyptian pounds, compared to 2020.

While men and women work the same number of hours in the governmental sector, 51 hours per week, women’s wages are 11.8% lower than men’s. 

In the private sector, the number of weekly working hours for men reached 56 hours and 54 hours for women.

Despite that, wages per hour are decreasing for women.

It amounts to 13.3 pounds, compared to 16.9 pounds for men, according to the Public Mobilization and Statistics Committee in 2021.

The average wage of a woman and a man during the last five years


Bullying and Abuse in the workplace

Forty-years old Hanaabegins her day with her coworkers collecting crops in the early morning. 

They work from six o’clock in the morning until five o’clock in the afternoon. Restlessly, some carry grapes, others pick fruits, and others work in packaging. 

While the men can take a few minutes to smoke a cigarette or drink a cup of tea, Hanaa and her female colleagues are subject to the supervisor’s whims. 

In the absence of any oversight role, they may face insults in addition to monthly deductions for no apparent reason.


An audio recording of Hanaa, showing her questions about wage discrimination


The American University study indicated that women face major challenges.

These include the high number of hours of domestic work, the cost of childcare, and negative attitudes towards them in the workplace.

Added to this are sexual harassment, discomfort with geographic mobility, and persistent wage gaps

And, finally, exposure to systematic discrimination in the labor market, in the absence of enforcement of anti-discrimination laws against them.

According to our analysis of mobilization and statistics data, the private sector consists of 73 economic activities. 

Of these sectors, 49 industries pay men more than women. 

While in 23 economic activities, men earn less than women.

The work in collecting, purifying, and distributing water ranked first, accounting for 309% of women’s total monthly salary, implying that men’s salaries are five times theirs. 

Followed by work activity in collecting crops, animal products, and hunting activities, at 169% of the total salary of women.

Then civil engineering with 100% of their total salary, then building services activities with 94.2%.


The economic activities in the private sector


Craftswomen and female workers are most affected by the wage gap

Mona Ezzat, an economic empowerment consultant and former director of the Women and Work Program at the New Woman Foundation, confirmed in a conversation with harika Walaken”In the private and public sectors, women perform the same work as men, with the same effort, but they do not receive the same salaries.” 

She pointed out that “some places exploit women because of the difficulty of finding a job, especially in the countryside and the Upper Egypt region.”

“This is the reason that pushes women to accept any wage,” she explained.

She added, “Some girls also work temporarily to buy their marriage needs before the wedding. So, employers take advantage of this urgent need to pay them a lower salary than men and young men.”

For her part, a member of the Board of Trustees of the New Woman Foundation, May Saleh, said that they “monitored, during the foundation’s research project on the gap between wages, the discrimination in the public and private sectors, especially in the agricultural sector.”

She pointed out that “this is due to the preconceived and stereotypical view that tries to limit the role of women, that the man is the one who provides for the family, and thus he should get the largest wage.”

But, the paradox is that, according to the mobilization and statistics in 2020, there are 3.3 million families in Egypt, including 24.7 thousand families headed by women, or 13.4%.

May also referred to “the lack of opportunities that are available to women in general, especially in travel, and the extra hours at work, under the pretext of their family responsibilities!”

She agreed with Kamal Abbas, a human rights activist working on men and women workers’ issues, that “discrimination also occurs due to assigning the care role to women alone.”

Women spend about 28 hours a week on housework, compared to only 3 hours for men, a 27-fold increase, according to American University research.

The perspectives of the two experts on women’s issues, Mona Ezzat and May Saleh, aligned with our analysis of the mobilization and statistics data.

Female farm hands appeared to be the most discriminated-against professions for women in the private sector.

Out of 38 professions, we found that 32 women earn less than men.

2 jobs in which women do not work, and 4 jobs in which men earn less than women.

The most prominent of these professions are: craftswomen, with a difference of 1510 pounds per month, or 189% of the total salary of women.

Then technicians and assistant specialists, with a difference of 1351 pounds, or 118%.

They are followed by information and communication technology technicians, with a difference of 1130 pounds, then those specialized in law, with a difference of 983 pounds.


55.5% of  professions have experienced an increase in the gender wage gap in the private sector in 2021 compared to 2020


The discrimination doesn’t reach the Capital. 

Hanaa and her fellow crop-gathering female workers and workers in clothing and textile factories suffer from the control and influence of customs and traditions in governorates far from the capital.

In the coastal, upper and rural governorates, many rights are given to men according to the prevailing custom.

While women, who suffer more than others, are marginalized due to the geographical distance from the capital, and facing many obstacles and social norms.

Employers avoid hiring women, or circumvent the law to underpay them for the costs they would pay for maternity leave benefits, according to the American University study.

The number of governorates in which women earn less than men in the private sector reached 22 out of a total of 27 governorates.

Al-Buhaira governorate ranked first in increasing the wage gap between men and women by 125%.

In six other governorates, women work more hours and earn less than men.

Men also receive lower salaries in 3 governorates, while the New Valley governorate (Al-Wadi Al-Jadid) ranked first, with a difference of 40 hours per month, and an increase of 84.5% of the total salary of women.

It was followed by North Sinai, with a difference of 12 hours, at a value of 1178 Egyptian pounds, and this percentage represented 83%, then Damietta (Domiat), with a difference of 12 hours.



The public sector.. circumventing the law

Although the Egyptian law did not differentiate between the two sexes in salary, discrimination takes place in crooked ways that violate the labor law, according to Kamal Abbas, the general coordinator of the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services.

The wage in the public sector consists of the basic job wage and the supplementary wage, which is what employees receive in return for commissions and overtime.

Discrimination occurs, according to Abbas, in the public sector by distributing higher-paid committees, assignments outside the governorates, and leadership positions to men.

So, decisions such as incentives and bonuses are in the hands of the management, which is mostly made up of men.


Kamal Abbas: decisions are in the hands of the management, which is mostly made up of men.


Mona, a pseudonym, a tax inspector in Alexandria, did not remember how many times she heard the phrase: “These tasks are for men only,” when it came to the field work of tax inspectors.

She tells us about her experience the first time she wrote her name in an inspection committee restricted to men only.

As she was told by the leadership that “this work is for men only, and women are for office work”!

Mona received a lot of criticism for going out with a stranger to the street to inspect the facilities. But she fought archaic habits to prove herself.

She said to “Sharika Walaken,” that “although the matter has changed a little now than before, there is still discrimination in the distribution of inspection places.”

She added, “Managers distribute women to work in remote, populated places, so they refuse on their own, and are denied additional supplementary wages.”


Tax inspector in Alexandria


According to the analysis of mobilization and statistics data, the number of activities in which women’s wages are lower than men in the public sector has reached 30 economic activities.

While women’s wages were higher than men’s in 19 activities, noting that the difference was slight. The increase in women’s wages over men does not exceed 800 Egyptian pounds.

The difference in salary appeared in the real-estate activities, reaching 804.4% of the total salary of women, meaning that men receive 9 times the salary of women in this activity.


There are about 11 economic activities out of 49 in which women work more hours than men and receive less wages.

These are residence activities, in which they work with 32-hour shifts, and the salary difference in women’s total wages is 15.6%, based on 327 ُEgyptian pounds.

Then the retail activity, excluding cars and motorcycles, with a difference of 12 hours, at 34.3%.

While there are 24 professions out of 35 in which women earn less than men in the public sector.

And 7 professions in which women do not work in the first place, and 5 professions in which men receive lower salaries than women.

In addition, the groups most exposed to wage discrimination in the public sector are female workers in professions such as operating harvesting machines, with a difference of 3230 Egyptian pounds per month.

This amounts to 265% of the total salary of women, which means that men earn more than 3 and a half times the salary of women.

Distribution of tasks in the public sector on the basis of gender

“When work tasks are distributed, it is on the basis of men and women, and they often prefer to give a number of positions to men,” according to Mona.

She said that she “also faced discrimination during her promotion, as she dreamed of assuming the position of general manager, after obtaining the first degree, but her boss at work gave priority to an employee under her management to occupy this position, just because he is a man.”

She added, “I felt a lump, and my psychological state deteriorated. Throughout my work, I face discrimination in the overtime work of the committees under the pretext that men support the family, and I am divorced and support my only son!”

She explained that “the financial remuneration for the additional committees ranged between 30% and 40% of the value of the basic salary. Whoever gets promoted gets the highest salary, as increases and rewards come through committees.”



The number of governorates in which women receive lower salaries has reached 11, out of 27 in the public sector.

While the number of governorates in which men receive lower salaries reached 10 governorates.

Gharbia topped the list of governorates in which the wage gap is increasing, by 135%.

It also ranked first among the governorates, with a difference of 16 working hours, and a salary difference of 2,357 Egyptian pounds, or 132.6% of the total salaries of women.

Followed by the Assiut governorate, with a difference of 8 working hours, and a difference of 561 pounds, or 12.3% of the total salary of women.

While the number of governorates in which women work more hours and receive less salaries reached 4 governorates, and men in 4 governorates.


The National Council for Wages and the Parliament are out of service

Although the issue of the gender pay gap is global, when we asked Magdy El-Badawi, a member of the National Council for Wages and Vice President of the Workers’ Union, about the matter he pointed out that “there is no evidence of wage discrimination between men and women in Egypt, because the council sets the limit of minimum wage without distinction between the sexes.

He said, “There is no differentiation in wages in the government sector, but this is mentioned in the private sector.” When asked about discussing this issue in the Council, he answered no.

He added that they “did not receive any complaints of this kind, and the council’s role is to set wages and not as a supervisor like the Ministry of Manpower.”

While writing this investigation, we interviewed Israa Ali (a pseudonym), the forty-year-old teacher, from Qalyubia.

She said that “during her work, she is subjected to disguised discrimination, because the difficult tasks in the government sector are restricted to men.”

She emphasized that “because of some nepotism, and the men’s relationships with each other, the educational administration distributes supervision of remote committees to women, and close ones to men in case the remote task is not financially profitable.”

She stated that “during the end-of-year exams, I went to monitor exams in a school in Zagazig Governorate, which is more than 80 km away from my house. They did not give this task to a man at the time, because whoever goes will spend 70 Egyptian pounds on transportation alone, and 50 Egyptian pounds for the day.”


She added, “As for my colleague, the man, he went to a closer place in the Qalyub area, about 15 km away from his home.”

The teacher in a technical school, who holds a master’s degree in law, also pointed out that “the higher-paying tasks go to men, such as managing the control, and they argue that they are the ones who spend on the house, and therefore they need money more than women. Although I am a mother with three children in different educational stages, and I need the money just as much.”

After we monitored the analysis of the data of the Governmental Mobilization and Statistics Center, and documented the experiences of several cases, we asked the Ministry of Manpower to respond to this data.

Their response is that “there is no wage gap between men and women who perform the same work, and this is stipulated in Article 35 of Labor Law 12 of 2003.”

And since the House of Representatives is now in the process of discussing the new labor law, we turned to the Chairman of the Manpower Committee in Parliament, Representative Adel Abdel-Fadil, who also completely denied the existence of any discrimination in the government sector.

When asked about some women’s complaints regarding men taking over some committees, in which higher wages are paid, he also denied that, and said that it was “totally untrue.”

With regard to the private sector, he stressed that “the business owner is free to act, and he has the right to give a salary as much as he wants to whoever he deems appropriate!”

Representative Abdel-Fadhil added that “it was the first time in his life that he heard of discrimination in wages between men and women. I did not receive any complaints of this kind.”

He pointed out that he “did not see the wage report for the Mobilization and Statistics Authority.”

We also asked him if the council discussed anything related to wage discrimination in the new labor law, or in the committee within the corridors of the council, and he answered in the negative as well.

We appealed to him to discuss the issue in the council, as soon as this investigation was published.

We also contacted the media office of the National Council for Women, and asked how the Manpower Committee did not discuss the gender wage gap crisis, while the Council is involved in discussions of the new labor law, and we did not receive any response by the time of publishing this investigation.

Four years into the labor force discrimination unit and the wage gap continues

The National Wages Council and Parliament’s Manpower Committee have not discussed this issue before.

While the Ministry of Manpower replied to us, that “there is no discrimination in wages”!

Although the Ministry itself established in 2019 a unit to achieve gender equality, with the aim of eliminating all forms of discrimination against women in the field of work, and empowering them economically.

Also, enhancing the principle of equal opportunities, and later circulating the unit to all manpower directorates in 2022, according to the ministry’s official website.

But, data analysis showed that nothing had changed!

When we asked the Ministry of Manpower about what was the unit provided to bridge this gap, they said that they “issued a gender-sensitive guide to guide inspectors in achieving equality and prohibiting discrimination. They trained some trade union women to run for labor elections, and they established some equality units within private sector facilities.”.

We also asked the ministry about a mechanism through which women can file a complaint, if they are subjected to wage discrimination.

What is it? Is there a legal provision for it and a penalty for employers?

They said, “Women should go to the labor office, or the equality unit in the directorate, and file a complaint, or file it on the government complaints portal of the Council of Ministers.”

They pointed out that “in the event of discrimination in wages on the basis of gender, this is considered a violation of the Labor Law, and legal measures are taken against the employer.”

But the ministry did not explain to us what these procedures are? Nor pointed out any related legal texts.

While the aforementioned American University study confirmed that despite the existence of anti-discrimination laws in Egypt, their application in the labor market still requires a lot of justice for women.

The role of unions is still far from having any noticeable impact on the Egyptian labor market, which limits the ability of female workers to enter the labor market and obtain better benefits in wages.

May Salih has demanded that work be done on the amendments to the Labor Law, which are currently being discussed in the House of Representatives.

She pointed out that “we must ensure that there are texts criminalizing discrimination, which has been overlooked so far, despite the importance of this issue.”

As for Hana, she is now seeking to educate her colleagues about their rights to equal pay with men, in the Upper Egypt desert, through a union for small farmers.

While Mona is waiting for her right to be promoted to General Manager in Alexandria Taxes.

Israa hopes to be equal with her male colleagues in the tasks of monitoring and remuneration.

Written by: Menna Abdel Razek

Supervision: Aman Bizri

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