Council Commentary

Investing in Young People in Egypt

For decades, the Population Council has generated evidence about the lives of young people in Egypt. In 1997, we fielded the groundbreaking Adolescence and Social Change in Egypt survey, which interviewed more than 9,000 young people. In 2009, we built on that foundation with the Survey of Young People in Egypt (SYPE). Council interviewers spoke to a nationally representative sample of around 15,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 29 from 11,000 households—one of the largest surveys of young people in the Middle East and North Africa.

The results of these studies—which offered gender-disaggregated information on health, schooling, employment, civic engagement, and many other topics—were used to inform government policies for young people. They were also used to inform two of the Council’s own pioneering programs, Ishraq and Neqdar Nesharek, to empower girls and young women in rural Upper Egypt.

Two years after data were collected for SYPE, young people electrified the world by playing an active part in demanding “bread, freedom, and social justice” and ousting Egypt’s regime of 30 years. The intervening years have been turbulent.

In 2014, the Council re-interviewed more than 10,000 respondents from the original 2009 survey, a group now aged 13–35. This study offers a unique and valuable trove of data on the lives of young people in Egypt before and after the Revolution.

To develop effective programs and policies, governments and organizations need solid, reliable data. Given the tumult and change recently experienced in Egypt, this is true now more than ever. Egypt’s population has a “youth bulge,” which under the right circumstances could propel the country economically. But without the right investments in young people’s health and education, as well as in opportunities for productive livelihoods, their future prospects—and some might even say the future of Egypt—will be limited.

Information on the circumstances and outlook of young people in Egypt are urgently needed. Results from SYPE illuminate young people’s struggle for jobs and concerns about Egypt’s economic situation, but also their optimism about the future.

We are proud of the Population Council’s long history in Egypt. We look forward to continuing to work hand in hand to improve the lives and secure the wellbeing of the Egyptian people.