CAIRO: An announcement by the Egyptian government that it will not hire any staff for the next five years has sparked anger among civil servants.
Government workers said the tactic was a heavy-handed, cost-cutting measure that would severely harm services.
The announcement was made in a review of the Egypt 2030 Plan, which said the government is currently working on a restructuring of the state’s administrative apparatus.
Hala Al-Said, the Egyptian Minister of Planning, said last week that within the plan the government will carry out a full inventory of state employees. The process starting this month is expected to take more than a year. She said the hiring freeze would be in place for five years.
The Egyptian government employs about 5.7 million people, costing the state almost $15 billion a year in salaries, according to official figures. Pay packets increase 7 percent a year.
Al-Said said that during the hiring freeze, about 17.8 percent of government employees will retire during the next five years.
The main concerns raised have been that the freeze prevents bringing in new young minds capable of innovation and experienced with modern technology. The freeze will also have an impact on the already high unemployment rate in Egypt.
The announcement came days after the “early retirement” of about 5,000 employees under a new civil service law, which was approved by the Egyptian government two years ago. To cut the wage bill, workers were offered retirement in return for various incentives.
The act gave civil servants the right to early retirement, after the age of 50, unless disciplinary action has been taken against them.
Dr. Mohammed Jamil, head of the Central Agency for Organization and Administration, said the civil service law aimed to reduce the number of government employees to within an employee for every 20 citizens in 2020, and then an employee for every 40 citizens in 2030.
This will eventually lead to the government employing between 120,000 and 150,000 employees.
Jamil believes that government employees pose a large financial burden on the state, and that they have not received sufficient training, explaining that the goal is to get the service to the citizen better and faster, as in developed countries.
But Safwat Al-Humaidi, an employee at the Egyptian Ministry of Electricity, said the decision went against the goal of the government to cut unemployment.
“The government is saying something, and doing something else,” he said.
The Ministry of Planning said recently that unemployment had decreased to 11.3 percent in the last fiscal year, and is expected to reach 8.4 percent in 2022.
But Egypt is also needs to cut government spending and boost the economy as part of tough reforms under a $12 billion loan program with the IMF.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said last week that Egypt is showing strong signs of recovery, but called for more to be done to expand the private sector.
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Masri, former dean of the faculty of management at Sadat Academy, said it could be possible to keep reducing unemployment while cutting the government’s work force.
Unemployment rates declined during the last period, not because of government appointments, but because of the small and medium enterprises (SME) system, which helped finance several projects therefore contributing to eradicating unemployment, he said.