Inequality in Egypt: facets and challenges - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia


Inequality in Egypt: facets and challenges

ESCWA Publication: E/ESCWA/CL2.GPID/2023/TP.9

Country: Arab Republic of Egypt

Publication Type: Information material

Cluster: Gender Justice, Population and Inclusive Development

Focus Area: Gender equality, Inclusive development, Population dynamics & migration

Initiatives: Development challenges

SDGs: Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption

Keywords: Education, Case studies, Health policy, Income distribution, Land, Poverty, Equality, Discrimination, Health indicators, Equal opportunity, Wealth, Social conditions, Economic conditions, Land rights, Income policy, Educational indicators, Household expenditures, Social welfare

Inequality in Egypt: facets and challenges

July 2023

Inequality in Egypt has long been the subject of scholarly and policy discussion, seeing that it significantly affects the well-being of millions of Egyptians and influences various aspects of their lives, including income, wealth, education, and other social outcomes. The present paper assesses the evolution of long-standing social and economic inequalities in Egypt. A paradox emerges when the stagnant and low household Gini coefficients since 2000 are compared with a contradicting rise in poverty as a result of declining real household expenditure, all while the economy as a whole witnesses much higher growth rates ironically attributed, from national accounts decompositions, to a fast rise in private expenditure.

To understand this paradox, the paper first delves into the historical trends of income inequality and inequality of land ownership and landholdings since the 1950s according to different studies, which indicate a sharp decline over the past 75 years. Recent estimates show that income and wealth inequalities in Egypt are moderate by global comparisons, and the trend across many indicators is one of improvement or stagnation. Similarly, inequalities in outcomes in basic social achievements have consistently dropped, closing gaps in most quantitative health and education indicators. The paradox lies in that these gains have been associated with persistently high levels of inequality in opportunities, especially in the attainment of secondary and tertiary education, which is pivotal for upward social and economic mobility.

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