The events in Egypt are obviously quite profound and I find them interesting since I was in Cairo just a couple of years ago. Looking st some stats, though, certainly highlights some of the profound issues that Egypt is facing and builds on some observations that I made when we visited there three years ago. Wide disparities of income, considerable poverty and unemployment.
Consider how Egypt fits into the history of countries from 1800 to 2009 in terms of life expectancy and income. It struggled for much of its early (post 1800 history) where it remained poor and unhealthy in Hans Roslings’ terms. Both improved, particularly income after 1975 but by 2009 Egypt remained in the middle of the pack in terms of income and health.
Egypt is a country of young people. From 1950 to 1990, the median age virtually did not change (graph here) even as income per person increased significantly. In comparison, we know that countries like Canada go much older. Eventually, in the 1990s, Egypt starting getting older and somewhat richer.
The trouble with being a country of young people is that employment prospects are not particularly good for young Egyptians. In 2009, the employment rate among men 15-24 was 31%. This is actually down from 41% in 1999 and the same as it was in 1991. Together this puts Egypt as a country that is still in 2009, full of very young people and young people without jobs (graph here).
Much is made of the role that Facebook and social media played in the current environment but it is worth keeping in mind that Egypt is not a particularly connected country in internet terms… it is, however, a country with significant economic and social challenges.