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Cairo, 2012 / Photo Fanack

The labour market is estimated at 22.34 million people (2006), of whom 78 percent are men. The government remains the major provider of non-agricultural employment (some 24 percent of the workforce), and the informal sector is the main source of low-productivity and low-income employment, especially for women.

Economic growth in the past few years has failed to create enough jobs to match the growth in the labour force, which averages 2.5 percent per year. More than 60 percent of the unemployed are youth.

The official unemployment rate has remained the same, around 10 percent over the past few years, but has worsened in absolute numbers. The total unemployment figure was put at 1.5 million in 1997 and increased 58 percent to 2.3 million in 2006.

In 2012, unemployment is probably higher than the official government statistics show, possibly 15 to 25 percent higher. Unemployment among university graduates is thought to be even higher, around 40 percent for men and 50 percent for women.

The past decade has seen a shift of employment from the public sector to the private sector, but employment growth in the private sector is mostly in uncertain jobs without social security.