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Egypt: One Year On

Egypt’s youth await jobs revolution

Stephen Beard Jan 27, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: This has been another day of protests and demonstrations in Cairo and across much of Egypt, marking the first anniversary of the revolution that drove Hosni Mubarak from office.

Despite a glimmer of democracy in the last year, a lot of the economic problems back then are still around: Corruption, poverty and unemployment — especially for young people. The unemployment rate for Egyptians under the age of 30 is 35 percent.

From Cairo, Marketplace’s Stephen Beard wraps up our series One Year On.

Stephen Beard: Eyad Dawoud is a rarity. He’s one of the few young Egyptians to benefit economically from the revolution. He’s just got a job in a business that’s taking off.

In a TV control room, the director launches the latest edition of a news show aimed at Egyptian youth. It’s presented by Eyad. This station is one of a dozen private channels that have sprung up since the revolution.

Eyad Dawoud: People now are more thirsty for information — different types of information. And they’re not only depending on one source. I can’t think of any other field that had this kind of expansion, other than the media.

Eyad lost his old job as a TV reporter in the dying days of the Mubarak regime. He was out of work for a year. He spent the time campaigning for democracy in Tahrir Square. His new bosses clearly believe this gives him credibility in the new Egypt.

Dawoud: Now you can say whatever you want to say. This is one of the few benefits we did take from the revolution. I mean we still have a long way to go. On the other hand one of the things we got was the freedom to speak.

Just how free the new TV stations will be is not yet clear. Eyad says if he’s censored he’ll quit. But for now, he’s greatly relieved to be back at work.

Dawoud: Now I know that by the beginning of next month I’ll get paid and I’ll give back my mother what I owe her. And yeah it feels great now that I can be responsible for myself again and do what I love.

Eyad’s glamorous new job seems a world away from Hadir Hassan’s humdrum existence. Twenty-year-old Hadir stands over a battered old washing machine doing the laundry. She lives with her parents, her brother and sister in a cement block apartment building on a muddy road in north Cairo. The household depends solely on her father’s meagre income as a cab driver. Hadir graduated from high school last summer. And she’s still unemployed.

Hadir Hassan: Every day I wake up. I eat breakfast. I study. I watch TV — only that. I don’t do anything else.

Hadir says she has looked for a job but without much hope of finding one.

Hassan: Most of us are educated and we don’t have work. My cousin who has a degree in business, he’s now working driving a rickshaw, he wanted to work in a bank. There are no jobs, there are no opportunities for work.

And Hadir doesn’t seem to feel the revolution will make much difference.

Hassan: Last year when the revolution happened I was finishing school, I knew that even in I looked for a job I wouldn’t find it. Now or even in the future.

So far the revolution has generated employment for a privileged few people like TV presenter Eyad Dawoud. To succeed it will need to create jobs for 800,000 school- and college-leavers a year — people like Hadir Hassan.

In Cairo, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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