The workshop responds to a growing need for enhanced tripartite dialogue on matters related to responsible business practices and human rights due diligence, inclusive trade and sustainable investment that leads to the creation of more and better jobs.
The Egyptian labour market has been witnessing various challenges starting from the early 2000s, manifested by a declining contribution in value added and in the employment of labour-intensive sectors, especially manufacturing. Accompanied by high unemployment prevalence, both precarious types of employment and working poverty have increased. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase of the overall unemployment rate in 2020, reaching 9.8 per cent compared to 7.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 and 7.6 per cent in the second quarter of 2019, with informal work in the private sector representing the highest segment of employment.
The private sector has a key role to play in Egypt’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, be it through large private sector firms and multinational enterprises, or micro, small and medium-sized enterprises that represent about 97% of Egyptian entrepreneurial activity. To respond to the 8% drop in employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Egypt developed a three-year structural reform plan in 2021 to support recovery and job creation. Private sector development, increasing exports and accelerating the digitization of the economy are key elements of this plan, together with enabling a just transition and providing greater support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Against this background, a 3-day workshop on “The promotion of sustainable and responsible business practices for the realization of decent work in Egypt: the approach of the ILO MNE Declaration” was organized by the ILO and co-financed through the ILO – Sida funded- ADWA’ project (Advancing the Decent Work Agenda in North Africa) with facilitation provided by the International Training Center of the ILO (ITCILO). The overall objective was to build a common understanding of the MNE Declaration and its principles in view of developing an overarching coherent and coordinated approach for the promotion of sustainable, responsible and inclusive investments and business practices for the realization of decent work in Egypt.
In particular, the workshop discussed how the MNE Declaration could further unlock the development potential of business, trade and investment towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 8 on decent work and inclusive economic growth. The workshop also provided a platform for discussion and dialogue among the different actors on the topic of decent work and respect for human rights/labour rights in business operations in Egypt.
Given the nature of the topics discussed (decent work, business, human rights and trade and investment) the workshop included participants from across the government, in particular from the Ministry of Manpower, the Ministry of Trade and Industries, the General Authority For Investments (GAFI), the Ministry of International Cooperation, the Ministry of Justice. ILO’s social partners were represented through the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) and representatives of trade unions from the telecommunications sector.
The workshop provided the participants an in-depth introduction to the MNE Declaration, its principles and operational tools to further promote the MNE Declaration, including at the national level. The sessions looked into progress made in Egypt thanks to ILO programmes and their partners for the elimination of child labour (ACCEL), employment opportunities linked to trade agreements (METI), compliance in the garment sector (Better Work programme), and the advancement of the Decent Work Agenda (ADWA’).
In a collaborative approach, participants discussed opportunities for the creation of a conducive environment for Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) and how to enhance policy coherence in Egypt for RBC. In this regard, participants identified specific national priorities and development objectives, such as:
- Achieving inclusive and sustainable growth and create more and better jobs for all (Leaving no one behind);
- Skills for youth and enhanced employability of Egyptian youth;
- Increased local content and linkages with local SME;
- Formalisation of SMEs, decent work and better employment opportunities;
- Enhanced uptake and implementation of fundamental principles and rights at work by private sector and government.
- The launching of a National Tripartite Steering Committee for the Promotion of the MNE Declaration and RBC;
- A review of the existing legal framework in order to ensure policy coherence for RBC and entry-points for the promotion of RBC;
- Engaging with incoming and existing investors on RBC and decent work;
- Review of trade and investment agreements and incorporation of RBC and the decent work agenda;
- Awareness-raising and training of different line ministries, employers, workers and enterprises.