Egyptian work ethic needs a lot of work
The Egyptian government’s rhetoric on productivity usually emphasizes that we are a poor nation wherein the state bears the financial responsibility for its citizens – a philosophy that often prompts state employees to “while away” their working hours instead of maximizing their inputs. Our government does not offer any incentive to stimulate its employees’ productivity; on the contrary, our excessive bureaucracy works on reducing employee efforts. Meanwhile, Egyptians see resources as a means to fulfill personal desires rather than achieve specific goals.
Contributing to our low productivity is the fact that Egypt’s workforce represents nearly one-fourth of our population, combined with the government’s inability to create sufficient new jobs. The Egyptian workforce tends to exert only the minimum effort required to keep the boat floating; it is neither eager to take part in any kind of boat race or concerned with the boat’s punctual arrival at its destination. Furthermore, by promoting people based on seniority rather than on productivity, we demotivate our employees from enhancing their production.
Productivity may be defined as the maximum use of time, energy and resources. In Egypt, we simply tend to misuse these three factors, declining to push ourselves to exert our utmost effort, because a minimal effort is sufficient to ensure our survival. Moreover, the absence of accountability encourages many to spend their working hours on leisure activities, an attitude obviously implying that our government needs to establish a policy to prompt citizens to make the best use of these three factors – which it has failed to do.
Instead of stimulating people to work more and earn more, the Egyptian government is very determined to apply an economic policy geared towards regulating the economy with the clear intention of controlling it in order to realize its economic growth targets. The government tends to overburden its employees with irrelevant bureaucratic tasks that may only be overcome through bribery, making our business transactions more complicated and costly – and granting a clear advantage to citizens who know how to deal with this system.
The Egyptian workforce tends to exert only the minimum effort required to keep the boat floating; it is neither eager to take part in any kind of boat race or concerned with the boat’s punctual arrival at its destination.
Meanwhile, Egyptian enterprises often work on advancing their respective executives’ technical knowledge, which in fact is quite adequate in many fields; what we lack is a positive work attitude. A large segment of our labor force spends its working hours navigating social media instead of doing their jobs. Sadly, entertaining ourselves during working hours, unaware of the drawbacks, is an essential part of our culture.
Egyptian society is not driven by specific goals or achievements. We don’t hold our employees accountable for their outputs. Embellished by bureaucracy, this approach to work is widely applied in the public sector and, to a great extent, in the private sector (for the sentimental reason of not leaving citizens jobless). Thus, our employees tend to gauge their number of working hours as clear achievements and decline to take any responsibility for their work output, claiming that it is influenced by many factors beyond their control.
The Egyptian government needs to work on extracting maximum ideas and energy from its employees. Advancing the technical know-how of government employees will not stimulate them to produce more. We must establish a clear correlation between employees’ outputs and their respective incomes. This will require clear job descriptions and a scientific measurement of work outputs – a policy area that our government needs to revisit.
Egypt’s main problem isn’t whether it is a rich or poor country; the real challenge lies in our policy with regards to maximizing citizens’ productivity. We need to teach employees that productivity is an essential part of a citizen’s dignity. Egyptian employees need to be educated to think before they act and to aim clearly at producing functional outputs – not justified inputs. Our path towards becoming a developed nation is through advancing Egyptian workforce productivity while simultaneously applying appropriate economic policies.
Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir