The Egyptian Social Protection System: Coverage Gaps, Challenges and Opportunities

Selwaness, I., and M. Messkoub, "The Egyptian Social Protection System: Coverage Gaps, Challenges and Opportunities", Social Policy in the Middle East and North Africa: The New Social Protection Paradigm and Universal Coverage, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2019.


There is an urgent need to address the shortcomings of Egypt’s current social protection system as part of a new social contract between the state and its citizens. With Egypt in a state of economic instability and recent efforts to reform the social insurance system stalled, the aim of this article is to provide a review of social insurance (SI) and social assistance (SA) systems, particularly in terms of coverage of population and benefits adequacy. Our findings show that a large and increasing proportion of workers are without social security coverage. This is because of the expansion of informal employment reaching up to 75 per cent of private sector wage employment and around 85 per cent of non-wage employment. Such a shortfall of coverage is particularly pronounced among young workers aged 20-29, younger headed households and workers in rural areas. The economically vulnerable workers, who are the largest proportion of all workers and are in the lower wealth quintiles of population, are less likely to be enrolled in the social security system and will not receive any pension in their old-age. This SI coverage gap is combined with the failure of SA programmes to reach a large percentage of the poor. The SA benefits to poor also suffer from an adequacy problem where, in 2012, the average social assistance income represented around 6.6 per cent of the “very poor” and 4.4 per cent of the “poor” poverty line. While there have been some reform measures to increase pensions, the inflationary wave hitting the Egyptian economy would erode SA pensions and raise headcount poverty rate. These challenges have called into question the efficacy of the current social protection system and the state’s ability to provide for its citizens’ basic welfare. A comprehensive reform of the social protection system in support of the poor and vulnerable should remain at the top of Egypt’s policy agenda.



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