The Fairwork Egypt 2021 Report presents the first round of Fairwork ratings for the Egyptian platform economy. The report evaluates the working conditions of seven digital labour platforms spanning four different sectors: ride-hailing, courier-delivery, tutoring, and home services. The platforms scores range from 0 to 5 out of 10, highlighting the existing gaps in labour standards across the board.
Following the rise in internet penetration rate from only 30% in 2010 to 54% in 2020, gig work has offered increased opportunities to find work easily, especially for workers in the informal economy, women and unemployed educated youth. Nevertheless, there are issues with the gig work model. The Fairwork report for Egypt examines the working conditions in the platform economy, with the aim to help improve conditions, protections and benefits to workers.
Ride-hailing services were the first type of gig work to break into the Egyptian market, with the launch of Uber in 2014. Since then, there has been an expansion in platform services beyond ride-hailing, particularly in the delivery sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has further catalysed this trend, leading to a 230% surge in demand for delivery services alone in Egypt. Nevertheless, and despite a growing number of new platforms, the platform economy still represents a small niche within Egypt’s large informal economy. It is estimated to include anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 workers, about 90% of whom are Uber drivers. While Egypt’s platform economy is dominated by multinational ride-hailing companies, there is a budding local scene of start-ups, some of which are included in this report.
In Egypt, the majority of gig workers are classified as independent contractors rather than employees. This is one reason why gig workers are often mislabelled and lumped within statistics on informal workers. In March 2021, the Egyptian government announced that it planned to “identify and support 2 million gig workers in the country by the end of this year”, according to Labour Ministry spokesman Haitham Saad El-Din. In order to do so, the Ministry plans to register gig workers’ employment status as “irregular employment”, which will enable workers to access free social security insurance including healthcare coverage, life insurance and disability cover, and other state welfare programs such as the previously administered three-months coronavirus grant. Being registered as “irregular” workers will allow for more protection for platform workers, while also forcing employers to adjust their employer-employee relationships thereby giving workers more rights. It is still unclear how the Ministry’s plans will unfold, but this represents a positive effort by policy makers to be inclusive of platform workers.