Egyptians Desire a Capitalist Lifestyle but a Socialist Work Environment!

Learning that thousands of Egyptian workers are striking to demand a wage increase of a few extra pounds makes me sympathize with their aim. However, knowing that the respective entities that employ them have been recording millions of pounds in losses annually over the last few years withdraws my initial support. Egypt’s labor dilemma is that our workers consistently strive to increase their incomes in order to cope with inflation – without offering to enhance their productivity and, often, without giving any thought to the profitability of their employers’ businesses.

In Egypt, offering a real job to a beggar is usually sufficient cause for him to walk away. Most beggars believe that they already have jobs; spending long hours in Cairo’s crowded streets begging people for a few pounds to help them to survive. Likewise, for government employees (who account for one-third of the Egyptian labor-force), the offer of a position in a private sector firm, at a substantially higher salary but without the lifetime job security that comes with government employment, certainly constitutes a losing proposition. Obviously, every worker would like to continue doing what he or she is comfortable with, irrespective of the added value to our economy.

For the majority of Egyptian citizens obtaining a secure position and a steady, reliable monthly salary is a nonnegotiable goal; in return, they offer their physical presence at their respective work venues. The big picture, which includes employees’ productivity and the work entity’s profitability, is of less concern to our labor force. Our workers want their respective wages to meet the rising cost of living – regardless of the productivity or profitability of the entities that employ them.

Egypt’s labor challenge is portrayed in its public sector; it not only has to do with the hundreds of loss-driven companies, but even more with the mindsets of Egyptian workers and their executives, who are still defending socialism. Meanwhile, the government that is supposed to be educating its workforce, teaching workers to be true entrepreneurs and encouraging them to abandon their public-sector mentality, is instead further advancing their desires by hiring unneeded labor and financing losing entities.

Egypt’s public sector dilemma began in the 1960s with the nationalist aim of making our country one of the world’s leading industrialized nations, able to produce a wide range of products to minimize reliance on foreign goods. A closed market was one of the prerequisites of this nationalist outlook – it resulted in distancing us from adopting better, more advanced technologies and implementing modern management systems. Our inability to produce competitive products has trapped us into the loop of reducing product quality to ensure that goods are affordable to limited income consumers.

A new graduate who joins the Egyptian workforce will find that he needs a substantial salary increase a few years later, after he has a family and children to support. At the same time, his work input, along with the experience he has gained, certainly don’t justify the rate of salary escalation that he will eventually require. The clear discrepancy between our actual work input and output has been widening, resulting in huge debts in citizens’ incomes and the national budget.

Possessing a smartphone or a satellite TV is no longer considered a luxury associated only with a capitalist lifestyle – yet low productivity or limited capacity in the work place is perceived as acceptable behavior that employers must put up with. Closing the gap between employees’ low productivity and their living needs is viewed as a government responsibility.

The Egyptian workforce needs to acquire a better understanding of socioeconomics. If workers desire a higher income and a better standard of living, they need to exert every effort to turn their work entities into profitable enterprises. This is not a challenge that the top management must resolve alone – it is a common responsibility! Moreover, the Egyptian government must have a clear economic vision that applies either a capitalist or a socialist policy and it must seriously undertake to harmonize citizens’ needs and desires with their work inputs.

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