Prior to the spread of the coronavirus, for Egyptians living under the poverty line, survival was a daily struggle. The less-privileged social class of the nation had always received the short end of the stick. In recent years, necessary economic reform impacted the underprivileged more than any other group, and as the government declares a state of national emergency in light of the growing threats of the COVID-19 pandemic, Egypt’s salt-of-the-earth day laborers grapple to put food on the table.
Trading Economics puts the minimum living wage for an average family in Egypt at EGP 2,710 per month in 2018; a number that the economic online platform expects to rise to EGP 4,100 per month in 2021.
Day laborers are workers who are hired and paid for one day at a time with no promise that more work will be available in the future. Plenty of artisans, craftspeople, construction workers, handypeople, farmers, and technicians are day laborers.
The average salary of a daily laborer fluctuates according to the availability of work, and with a partial shutdown of the country has been implemented, these people and their families are at risk of going hungry.
On Sunday, the government announced an EGP 100 billion stimulus package to prevent the economy from stagnating. According to Enterprise, an EGP 27.6 billion will be distributed to 10 million Egyptians funneled through the ratified Social Security and Pensions Act allowing pensioners to add a total of previous 5 raises to their pensionable pay. Although this decision would aid widowers and pensioners who represent a percentage of daily laborers, the stimulus package does not directly affect the livelihood of other daily workers.
On Saturday, the Minister of Social Solidarity announced the enrollment of 100,000 additional families to the ministry’s social aid program ‘Takafol W Karamah”; the program had already enrolled 273,000 families at the beginning of 2020, and plans to add more in response to the crisis.
The Takafol program offers a dividend of EGP 325 to the head of the family and an additional EGP 80 for each child in the primary stage of education, EGP 100 for each child in the preparatory stage, and EGP 180 for each child in the secondary stage. On the other hand, the Karamah program offers the elderly passed the age of 65 a total dividend of EGP 425.
With a night curfew applied in Egypt and a panic over the virus taking hold of its people, these workers are suffering the most. In fact, on Monday, MP Mostafa Salem announced that he personally donated to daily workers who were forced to remain at home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; he urged other MPs to do the same. Other influencers and celebrities took to Instagram to challenge one another in providing for families in need, and then CSRs of major companies followed suit. Although all are well-intentioned, much-needed relief efforts, these people still need more to survive.
We can only survive this healthcare crisis if we stick together as a people and as a nation. If you can donate, do not hesitate; do it and spread awareness.