Safaa El-Kogali was the director of the Population Council’s West Asia and North Africa region. A globally known economist, she has focused her research on issues of education, poverty, labor markets, and gender.
It is an accepted fact that "information is power." This power, however, comes not from simply possessing information, but from making good use of it. Access to survey data is crucial in order to shed light on issues that societies and countries need to address. For decades, statistical agencies have collected useful information through quantitative and qualitative surveys, but have been reluctant to share it because they fear doing so will threaten the security of the countries in which it is collected. While this continues to be the case in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, in Egypt we have seen a notable shift in the willingness to make data available.
In cooperation with the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the Population Council collected and analyzed essential data and statistics that resulted in studies of some of the most important economic and social issues in Egypt today, including the impact of the global economic crisis, the labor market and unemployment, and other crucial development issues.
Egypt also has worked to collect and analyze data on its largest resource: its young people. Working with the Information and Decision Support Center of the Prime Minister's office, and with technical support from CAPMAS and financial support from nine bilateral and multilateral donors, in 2009 we conducted the Survey of Young People in Egypt (SYPE), the largest survey to date of young people in the Middle East and North Africa. The SYPE builds on the Adolescence and Social Change in Egypt (ASCE) survey that the Council conducted in 1997.
Egypt currently has a "youth bulge," that is, the number of young people in the country is significantly larger than other age groups. This bulge has occurred because of high fertility rates in the 1950s and 60s followed by a decline in the number of children born. Currently, about 40 percent of Egypt's population is between the ages of 10 and 29 years. With the right investments, these young people represent a demographic gift that will positively shape Egypt's future.
However, the large size of this cohort places enormous pressure on social services and the labor market and creates major challenges for development planning. Failure to plan appropriately could result in social and economic marginalization of a large proportion of young people, who will then be unable to compete in an increasingly globalized economy. This demographic gift could become a burden.
Some 15,000 young people from 11,000 households were interviewed for the SYPE. Survey respondents were between the ages of 10 and 29 years and came from throughout Egypt, including the five border governorates. This is a relatively unusual practice in Egypt; most surveys exclude these governorates because of their relatively small population size and the high cost of collecting data within them. The SYPE covers the five key transitions to adulthood for young people, including health, education, employment, marriage, and civic engagement. It also contains information on the attitudes and aspirations of young people.
A final report detailing the results of the SYPE was disseminated at a conference in Cairo on 14 December 2010. We're also making the survey data available free of charge to encourage additional analysis. We hope researchers will further investigate the status and conditions of young people in Egypt and that our data will inform policy that will make a positive difference in the well-being of Egypt's population.