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Surveying young people in Egypt before and after the revolution.

For decades, the Population Council has generated evidence about the lives of young people in Egypt. In 1997, the Council conducted the groundbreaking Adolescence and Social Change in Egypt survey, interviewing more than 9,000 young people. In 2009, the Council interviewed a nationally representative sample of around 15,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 29, from 11,000 households--conducting the Survey of Young People in Egypt (SYPE), one of the largest surveys of young people in the Middle East and North Africa.

The results of these studies--which offered gender-disaggregated information on health, schooling, employment, civic engagement, and many other topics--were used to inform government policies for young people. They were also used to inform two of the Council's own pioneering programs, Ishraq and Neqdar Nesharek, to empower girls and young women in rural Upper Egypt.

Two years after data were collected for SYPE, young people electrified the world by playing an active part in demanding "bread, freedom, and social justice" and ousting Egypt's regime of 30 years. The intervening years have been turbulent.

In 2014, the Council reinterviewed more than 10,000 respondents from the 2009 survey. This new study offers a unique and valuable collection of data on the lives of young people in Egypt before and after the Revolution.

A survey of Egypt's young people is particularly informative because a high proportion of the country's population is under age 30, forming a so called "youth bulge." Approximately 60 percent of the population is under age 30, and 40 percent of those individuals are between the ages of 10 and 29. This demographic pattern has significant implications for the country's future. Targeted investment in young people--Egypt's future leaders--can bring considerable economic benefit to the country. However, if the health, education, and economic needs of Egypt's young people are not addressed, the results for these individuals, as well as for the country, could be devastating.

Comparing the findings of SYPE 2009 and 2014 provides an unparalleled picture of the lives of young people in Egypt, before and after the Revolution. The findings are an invaluable source of support for policymakers who seek to develop evidence-based policies and programs to enhance the potential and well-being of Egyptian young people and the country as a whole.

Key findings and policy implications

Overall, SYPE 2014 found that Egypt's young people are relatively optimistic about their prospects, but they believe that the government needs to play a larger and more active role in ensuring a positive future. Young people appear to be most concerned about raising living standards in their country. They report that being financially well-off and well educated are more important societal values than political tolerance and transparency. When asked about the top challenges facing Egypt, they rank lack of security first--not surprisingly, many respondents said that security risks increased over the previous five-year period--followed closely by the economic crisis.

Indeed, there are fewer job opportunities for young people in Egypt as a result of the country's political changes. Though the unemployment rate during this time dropped only slightly, the decline can be attributed to the increase in the proportion of young people who got discouraged and stopped looking for work, not to an increase in employment levels. Many young people took informal or temporary jobs, the most vulnerable forms of employment, which are often correlated with poverty. Additionally, researchers observed increased reliance on entrepreneurship as an alternative means of entering or staying in the labor market, since young people were unable to find wage-paying jobs. It is critical that Egypt proactively address these economic uncertainties and help ensure employment opportunities for young people who want to improve their well-being and contribute to the growth of their country.

Young people in Egypt today are more likely than they were in the past to say that the environment is polluted and affecting their health. They also perceive increased health risks from poor nutrition and high rates of smoking. Researchers saw little change in overall gender attitudes, which remained highly conservative, as well as in knowledge about HIV and family planning, although desired fertility increased between 2009 and 2014. Government policies must make it a priority to raise awareness about HIV and family planning to ensure that people can protect themselves against infection and unintended pregnancies.

Though fewer respondents indicated in 2014 that they had experienced female genital mutilation or cutting, this likely does not represent an actual decline. More respondents refused to answer this question in 2014 than in 2009, suggesting ambivalence about the practice or fear of legal implications. In addition, a majority of respondents stated that this practice is necessary and that they intend to circumcise future daughters. These findings suggest that interventions that target young people before they get married and subject their daughters to this practice are urgently needed.


Nevertheless, the surveys showed that young people are optimistic about Egypt's future. Despite the political and economic instability in Egypt during the transitional, post-Revolution period, the rate of migration aspirations among respondents did not change much between 2009 and 2014. Young people who expressed a desire to migrate were motivated by economic factors, not by political and security circumstances, and most said that they would leave the country only for a period of up to five years and would then return.

Despite reports about increased pollution, poor nutrition, and high rates of smoking, almost half of Egypt's young people described themselves as healthier in 2014 than they were in 2009, and researchers noted an overall decrease in reported sexual harassment among young women. In addition, Egypt has made enormous progress in ensuring that young people enter school, although the government must now take this a step further to ensure that children succeed and receive a good quality education in school.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the biggest change observed between 2009 and 2014 was in political participation. While only 16 percent of respondents of voting age reported in 2009 that they had ever voted in an election, voter turnout increased to approximately 65 percent in referendums and elections that took place between 2011 and 2012. Young people's use of the Internet and media, and especially the use of the media as a news source, increased dramatically between 2009 and 2014; about 80 percent of respondents indicated that at least one type of media was important or very important for getting information about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

Nonetheless, the survey found that overall few young people participate in political activities, although those with more years of education were more likely to engage politically. Illiterate young people were the least active, compared with those who received university and graduate-level education.

Overall, these findings point to several key areas where the Government of Egypt should take action to help secure the positive future that young people aspire to:

* Provide better employment opportunities for young people;

* Promote equality of opportunity for all young people;

* Improve family planning programs to help people avoid unplanned pregnancies and reduce pressure on the weak economy;

* Encourage young people to engage even more actively in political and civic life so that they continue to contribute positively to Egypt's transition.

To develop effective programs and policies, governments and organizations need solid, reliable data. Given the tumult and change recently experienced in Egypt, this is true now more than ever. Egypt's young population could propel the country economically. However, without the right investments in young people's health and education, as well as in opportunities for productive livelihoods, their future prospects--and some might even say the future of Egypt--will be limited.


Roushdy, Rania and Maia Sieverding. 2015. Panel Survey of Young People in Egypt 2014: Generating evidence for Policy, Programs, and Research. Cairo: Population Council.


US Agency for International Development (USAID), Ford Foundation, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), UNICEF United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN WOMEN, United Nations, UNAIDS, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Health Organization (WHO), Silatech, and University of Tennessee
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Publication:Population Briefs
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Dec 1, 2015
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