Household survey highlights rise in poverty, inequality in Egypt

More than 25 million Egyptians lived on less than LE482 per month in 2015, new figures from state statistics agency CAPMAS indicate.

The CAPMAS-led 2015 Household Income, Expenditure and Consumption Survey found that the percentage of Egyptians living in poverty rose to 27.8 percent, up from 26.3 percent in 2012/13 and 25.2 percent in 2010/11.

In a Tuesday press conference, Heba al-Laithy, a Cairo University statistician who worked on the report, noted that the official poverty line rose from LE326 per month in 2012/13 to LE482 per month in 2015, to reflect a rise in the minimum income sufficient for a dignified life. This means that a family of five needs a monthly income of LE2,410 to remain above the official poverty line.

The survey also highlighted the disparity in spending power between the poor and the wealthy in Egypt. Spending by the top 10 percent of earners amounted to 25 percent of the national total, while the poorest decile’s share of spending amounted to just 4.2 percent of total consumption.

Average annual consumption among the top earning 10 percent amounted to LE60,700 per family in 2015, Laithy said. The next highest bracket spent an average of LE39,000 per family, with a gradual decline down to LE21,800 per family in the lowest 10 percent.

Per capita, the lowest bracket spent LE3,323 a year, while individuals in the highest decile spent an average LE23,086 per year, Laithy added.

Laithy noted the survey found that 77 percent of the top spending bracket have smart cards entitling them to subsidized goods, while 82 percent of the poor do not benefit from Egypt’s social insurance program.

Spending patterns also differed between the poorest and wealthiest Egyptians. The survey found that households in the bottom 10 percent spent around 47.7 percent of their income on food and beverages, compared to 22.6 percent among the upper income bracket. Spending on alcohol and tobacco amounted to 5.8 percent of income for the lowest earners, compared to 2.7 percent among the highest earners.

This means that food price inflation and price increases and excise taxes on tobacco have a greater impact on poor households than wealthy ones.

Overall, the average expenditure on food fell to 34.4 percent of income in 2015, compared to 39.9 percent in 2010/11 and 37.6 percent in 2012/13.  CAPMAS chief Abu Bakr al-Guindy celebrated this result as “proof of improved standards of living.”

Proportionally, low earners spent more of their income (5.8 percent) on clothing and footwear than high earners (4.6 percent), but less on culture and recreation (0.8 percent for low earners vs. 3.5 percent for high earners), healthcare (8.2 percent for low earners vs. 11 percent for high earners) and transportation (3.9 percent for low earners vs. 10.4 percent for high earners).

According to the report, the average family income was LE44,200 per year, with city dwellers likely to earn more than their rural counterparts. Around 67 percent of that income came from wages, with another 20.5 percent coming from currency transfers — a category that includes remittances from workers abroad. Real estate rental amounted to 9.4 percent of total income, and income from other financial assets 3 percent.

“Development practitioners rely heavily on income and expenditure surveys in an attempt to target the poor through income support programs like Takaful and Karama,” said Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly.


Translated by Isabel Esterman


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