An Egyptian street sweeper
An Egyptian street sweeper (Maria Johnson / Flickr / Creative Commons)

It’s harder than ever to find a job in Egypt, where the unemployment rate has risen to a record 13 per cent. For young Egyptians, the jobless rate is much higher.

For out-of-work Christians, finding a job can be especially tough. They are 10 to 12 per cent of a country where Islam is the state religion. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party holds the highest offices in the government. When quarrelling citizens arrive at legal loggerheads, the new constitution turns to Islamic law to resolve the impasse. In the streets, kidnappings for ransom are increasing and churches are often attacked and burned.

The International Monetary Fund, which is negotiating a multibillion-dollar loan to Egypt, put the situation in diplomatic language in April: “Prolonged political and policy uncertainty, social unrest, and security problems have taken a toll on confidence. As a result, real GDP growth has remained sluggish.”

Along with measures to instil government fiscal discipline, the IMF says “The most immediate challenges are to . . . protect the most vulnerable segments of the population.” Longer term, the report urges Egypt to enact “structural reform” that results in “more socially balanced growth.”

At ground level, Egyptian Christians use a more personal language to describe their place in the economy. World Watch Monitor spoke with three Cairo Christians who are looking for work, and their comments are below. Each of them asked not to be photographed or identified in full. Publicly criticizing a system they view as favouring Muslims, they said, would only make the long odds against finding a job even longer.

Name: Not provided

Age: 37

Qualifications: Bachelor of Agriculture, Cairo University, 1998. Finished military service in 2000.

Personal: Married, one child

It was difficult to find work even before the 2011 popular uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak out of office, he said.

“In 2005, I travelled to Kuwait because I couldn’t find any job in my country. I was working as a salesman in shop of (eye)glasses there. So, I could save some money from my work there. I returned to Egypt in 2009 to marry, and I married in December 2009. After the marriage, I have tried to find any job here but really I cannot.”

Like job-seekers around the world, he turns to the want ads.

“I read the daily jobs advertising in the Egyptian newspapers to look for a job in my field. I applied for many governmental jobs but really I couldn’t get any one.

“For example, one day I read a job advertising ‘Job contest’ in a newspaper related to my field. The Ministry of Agriculture was seeking agricultural engineers, and all the required qualifications like the age, degree, were very suitable for me to get this job. Really I was very qualified to get this job.

“So I immediately went to the Ministry of Agriculture and filled in its job application and presented a copy of all my papers — qualification, birth, military service, identity card.

“And they asked all the applicants to come after one month to see the result of the job contest. After one month I went to the Ministry and I looked at the paper of names, which was hung on the wall of the ministry building, but I didn’t find my name among them. All the names were Muslims names. There wasn’t any Christian name among them.”

“The situation here has become worse after the revolution, especially nowadays under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

To make ends meet, he has resumed traveling to Kuwait occasionally “to work there (so) I can save some money to send to my family. But really, I hope to find any work here to stay with my family to be beside them and take care of them.”

“It’s very difficult to find any job here,” he said, “because the Egyptian economy has become so much worse, and many people lost their jobs. So, I don’t have any hope to get any job here now.”

Name: Mina

Age: 34

Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in accounting, Ain Shams University, Cairo, 2001. As the only male child in his family, he was not required to enter the military.

Personal: Single.

Since his graduation 12 years ago, Mina said he has lived with his parents, unable to find work.

“I have applied to many jobs as an accountant in banks and governmental authorities, but I can’t get any job because I’m a Christian and I don’t have a big amount of money to pay for getting a job.

“I know someone who paid a bribe of 60,000 Egyptian pounds (about US $8,500) to get a job of an accountant in the Ministry of Petroleum. And another one paid a bribe of 50,000 Egyptian pounds to get a job in a (government-operated) bank. There is a corruption in the government here.”

“So a great deal of Christians face more difficulties to find jobs here, especially after the revolution,” Mina said, “because the government is Muslim and the persecution of Christians is increased under the control of Muslim Brotherhood.”

Mina said he and his parents live on his father’s pension. “I would like to marry and have a family,” he said. “But the marriage needs much money and I don’t work, and so it is difficult to marry now.”

As with thousands of other Egyptians, regardless of religion, Mina says he sees little future in his homeland.

“My dream is to emigrate to America or Australia.”

Name: Not provided

Age: 45

Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree, Ain Shams University, Cairo, 1990. Completed military service 1991.

Personal: Married, 3 children.

“I can’t get any job (in his field of study) from my graduation year up till now. I hoped to work in the Ministry of Antiquities. I applied to more jobs contests belonging to the Ministry of Antiquities in the field of my qualification, but really I couldn’t get any one.”

He said it’s clear to him why he can’t get hired. “When I apply to any job and they know that I’m Christian, they refuse me.”

He has stopped applying for work for an employer. “There is no hope to get any job now,” he said. Instead of finding work to suit his degree, he supports his family by operating a small grocery store.