North African Arab States
This region sometimes includes other Islamic African states such as Somalia and Chad. However, we have included such countries in Subsahara. All these countries, except Morocco, were subject to uprisings during the “Arab Spring’ and all remain politically unstable to some extent – particularly Libya where many years of dictatorship left a cruel heritage and Morocco where a long-standing war is being waged over the Western Sahara.
Historically all states have been subject to strong influences from European countries – Morocco from France and Spain, Algeria from France, Libya and Tunisia from Italy and Egypt from ancient Rome – and, in more modern times, the UK. The country with the greatest overall economic potential is Egypt – which has a relatively well educated population and sits in a strategic position at the head of the Nile and Red Sea. Control of the Suez Canal gives it huge power over traffic between Europe and Asia.
Algeria has a plenteous labour supply from SubSaharan Africa, which depresses wages and encourages poor working conditions. However the government employs a substantial number of labour inspectors and there are severe penalties for undeclared labour, including up to 6 months imprisonment for errant employers.
In Libya, since the conflict began in 2011/12 many foreign workers left the country. Most labour law only applies to foreign workers. However, since most of the country’s 1.5M foreign workers largely departed in 2012/13 they have been replaced by around 800,000 undocumented foreign workers, mainly from the SubSahara region.
With no stable government to enforce laws the only effective rules are those maintained by foreign companies still operating in the country. Foreign workers also find it difficult to convert Libyan currency.
Tunisia has a formal framework of employment, minimum wage and health/ safety laws, but does not adequately enforce them – in spite of employing a substantial team of labour inspectors. This is partly because of its huge informal work sector (54% – with more than half of them women) and lack of any serious attempt to compile accident and other statistics.
Egypt: There is no private sector minimum wage and more than a quarter of the population live in abject poverty. Labour inspections are infrequent and do not cover the informal business sector (40% of the working population). Discrimination is rife, particularly against religious minorities. Being part of the LGBT community is illegal and punishable by imprisonment.
Morocco: This is ruled by a monarchy and has a substantial minority of Berber peoples – with their own distinct culture and language. Once again, a framework of laws exist, but the only law reasonably well enforced concerns the employment of women and children in hazardous occupations. Workplace accidents are common, but seldom reported.
Greatest advantages: Adjacency to Europe. Strategic control over east-west freight traffic (Egypt).
Greatest disadvantages: Sectarian violence and fundamentalism. Libya remain highly dependent on oil – which terrorist actions are making it difficult to extract. All countries suffer from water shortages and a lack of any significant industry or foreign inward investment.
Proportion of global land area: 3.8%
Proportion of global population: 2.4%
Annual rate of population increase: 1.8%
Life expectancy: Men 72.8years Women 75.3 years (Algeria)
Working population in the informal economy: 62% (Egypt)
GSI Modern slavery (Forced Labour) 0.6 % – 1.13%
Unemployment rate: 9.4 % to 15.4%
GDP/capita PPP (current) $8,300 – $15,026
Female labour participation rate: 20% (Egypt)
Male labour participation rate: 42% (Egypt)
World Bank rating (doing business):60 /190 (Morocco) to 166/190 Algeria
FedEE overall employment potential rating: 5/10
FedEE regulatory rating: 7/10
Minimum wage rates (selected states)
– Egypt: 1200 EP a month (1.1.2018) Limited application
– Morocco: 2369 AED a month (July 2015)
– Tunisia: 357 Dinars a month (March 2017)