Average wages in Egypt increased by 18.7 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to a bulletin released Wednesday by state statistics agency CAPMAS, outpacing annual inflation, which reached 11.66 percent in December 2013.
In 2013, the average Egyptian salary rose to LE761 per week according to the report (LE3,298 per month), compared to LE641 per week (LE2,778 per month) in 2012. With an average working week of 54 hours, this equates to LE14.1 per hour.
The bulletin released by CAPMAS does not include information about median salaries or wage inequality, making it impossible to judge how much average wages have been skewed by a small percentage of extremely high earners.
CAPMAS does note significant differences in average wages in the public and private sectors. In 2013, civil servants and employees of public sector businesses brought home an average weekly salary of LE964, more than twice the average private sector salary of LE439 per week.
Workers in the private sector also worked more hours, with an average workweek of 57 hours, compared to 51 hours per week in the public sector. This brings the average hourly wage in the private sector to just LE7.7 per hour, almost 60 percent less than public sector workers, who earned an average of LE18.9 per hour.
On average, men out earned women by 7.7 percent, bringing home LE769 per week, compared to LE714 for women.
In the public sector, however, women earned more than men, bringing home an average of LE1065 per week compared to LE951 per week for their male counterparts. This figure was reversed in the private sector, where women earned an average of LE364 per week, compared to LE456 per week for men.
The highest weekly wages, LE2,287 went to workers in finance and insurance. Education had the lowest earners, with an average weekly wage of LE237.
Although the average figures paint a positive picture, workers argue that focusing on average wages rather than median wages obscures the plight of ordinary workers.
For example, the average wage for public sector workers in 2013 was LE4,177 per month. This exceeds, by nearly 3.5 times, the public sector minimum wage of LE1,200 per month, which was not instated until January 2014 and still has not been applied to all workers.
Tamer Faiyez, worker and independent union organizer at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla told Mada Masr, “The (company) administration claims that our average yearly income at the company amounts to LE30,000. Numerically speaking this number is correct. However, it does not reflect the real average income that we workers make per year.”
“This number is calculated based on the salaries of the company’s top administrators — several of whom earn tens of thousands of pounds per month — plus the wages of us workers,” Faiyez explained.
Factory workers at this company earn meager wages — ranging from LE1,000 to LE1,800 per month — or about LE12,000 to LE21,600 per year.