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To what extent does the state protect children's rights in the workplace?
To what extent does the state regulate marketing and advertising, and ensure children are not harmed through product use?
Community and Environment Index
To what extent does the state encourage the responsible extraction and use of natural resources, limit damage to the environment, and protect children from displacement?
The following narrative provides a brief analysis of the data behind the Children’s Rights and Business Atlas and is meant to be a general guide for businesses in integrating child rights considerations into human rights due diligence. To fully understand impacts on children’s rights, we encourage all companies to consult relevant industry guidance, and to take steps to align policies, procedures and practices to the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) and Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBPs).
Credit: © UNICEF/UNI2025/Noorani
All businesses operating in or sourcing from Egypt impact children. With a population 95 million, Egypt is one of the most populous countries in the Middle East. Children make up 40% of the population.
According to the Children’s Rights in the Workplace Index, companies operating in or sourcing from Egypt should exercise moderate due diligence. Egypt’s score of 4.4 out of 10 (moderate due diligence) in the index is primarily due to child labour rates, and some gaps in legal protections on working conditions, including parental leave and women’s equal participation in the workforce.
According to official data, 1.6 million children (7%) aged 5-17 are in child labour, and 5.6% are working under hazardous conditions. The Egyptian government has ratified ILO Conventions on Minimum Age of Employment (No. 138) and Worst Forms of Child Labour (No. 182). The national law sets a minimum age for employment at 14, although there is an exception for seasonal work in the agricultural sector. A significant portion of child labour (63.5%) occurs in agriculture, mostly in rural areas. Food and beverage companies should therefore exercise caution when operating in or sourcing from Egypt and put in place comprehensive child safeguarding and child labour remediation policies. The worst forms of child labour – including the sale and trafficking of children and sexual exploitation – are also a concern in Egypt. The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons has received reports of sexual exploitation of girls, and requested that the government increase efforts to prevent and eliminate trafficking. Trafficking for sexual exploitation of children can take place in popular tourist destinations such as Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor. As such, travel and tourism companies should implement child safeguarding procedures to protect children in business facilities.
Decent work for parents and caregivers
Women’s equal participation in the workforce is a concern in Egypt; just 23% of the female population is active in the labour force. Although Egypt has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the government has yet to ratify the ILO Convention on Maternity Protections (No. 183). Working mothers are entitled to 13 weeks (3 months) of paid maternity leave, which is less than the 14 week period stipulated in the ILO convention. Women receive 75% of their earnings during maternity leave. There is no paternity leave entitlement. An adequate period of maternity leave is crucial to ensure that working mothers can recover from childbirth and can adequately care for infants. The duration of maternity leave in Egypt may interfere with exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (26 weeks) as recommended by UNICEF and WHO guidelines. Exclusive breastfeeding helps children to survive and supports healthy development. In Egypt, 39.5% of infants are exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, which is close to the global average of 40%. However, this figure is likely to be lower among working women, may be motivated to stop exclusive breastfeeding to return to work. Access to childcare and early childhood education for workers’ children is also a concern in Egypt. According to the most recent survey (EDHS 2014), just 47% of children aged 36-59 months attend early childhood education programmes, and the net enrolment rates in pre-primary education is just 26.5%. Without access to good quality childcare and pre-primary education, workers’ children could be more at risk of abuse and neglect due to lack of adequate supervision. They also miss out on key early childhood development opportunities, as early childhood education has been shown to improve education and other outcomes later in life.
According to the Children’s Right’s in the Marketplace Index, companies operating on or sourcing from Egypt should exercise heightened due diligence. Egypt scores 4.5 out of 10 (heightened due diligence) in the index, due at least in part to significant obesity rates among children and gaps in regulation of marketing of harmful products (i.e., HFSS foods) to children.
Marketing and advertising to children
Obesity rates in Egypt are the 17th highest in the world, according to WHO data, and rising. In 2016, 37% of children and adolescents aged 5-19 years were overweight or obese, compared with 23% in 2000. Overweight and obesity rates transcend across all wealth quintiles, which those in the richest wealth quintile showing higher rates (37%) compared to those in the poorest wealth quintile (33%). Egypt’s national laws regulate advertising, but do not address marketing to children generally, or marketing of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods to children. Academic research suggests that food and beverage advertisements are among the top three commercials on Egyptian television, and that this has an impact on children’s food preferences and eating habits. There is also growing evidence of the impact that marketing of HFSS foods has on children and childhood obesity. Food and beverage companies should therefore review their marketing practices to ensure that children are not targeted with advertisements for HFSS foods, through television, digital platforms, or in schools.
Commercial sexual exploitation
All forms of pornography are illegal in Egypt; however, crime statistics indicate that children are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation through online pornography. It is thought that [some child pornography is produced in the country, and that activity may be spreading in urban areas and upper-class suburbs in particular. Children living in poverty may be the most vulnerable to exploitation; and there are indications that child poverty is a growing problem. The Government strictly monitors Internet cafés and websites, and consistently blocks access to certain websites, including those featuring child pornography. Nevertheless, ICT companies should take steps to ensure that safeguards are in place to tackle online production and dissemination of child pornography.
Community and Environment
According to the Children’s Rights in the Community and Environment Index, companies operating in or sourcing from Egypt should moderate due diligence. Egypt’s score of 4.1 out of 10 (moderate due diligence) is due in large part to the acceleration in population growth, which is exacerbating development challenges in Egypt, particularly in relation to the provision of education and healthcare.
Support government and community efforts
Egypt’s fertility rate is steadily increasing, from 3.1 children per woman in 2005 to 3.5 in 2014. According to government and UNICEF statistics, primary school net enrolment rates are 92%, and an estimated 60% of children reach secondary school. The government has made significant progress to expand access to education, particularly for girls. However, attendance rates in many areas are low. According to the last census, 8.1% or 1.4 million children between 6 and 17 years of age have never enrolled in school or have dropped out of basic education. Egypt has made progress reducing maternal and child mortality. Nevertheless, the under-five mortality rate is 23 per 1,000 births, with an estimated 57,000 under-five deaths per year. This rate can be attributed at least in part to limited access to antenatal care. According to the latest Egypt Demographic and Heath Survey, 72% of births by mothers in the poorest wealth quintile will receive regular antenatal care compared with 93% of birth by mothers in the richest wealth quintile. There are notable regional disparities, with 72.8% births in rural Upper Egypt receiving regular antenatal care compared with 90% of births in urban Lower Egypt.
Children’s rights in relation to land acquisition
Minority and indigenous children (including Copts, Nubians, Baha’i) are among the most vulnerable in the country, with inequity in land ownership and access. Egypt voted in favour of the UN Declaration on Indigenous and Peoples Rights (UNDRIP) has ratified ILO Convention No.169 on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples. However, national laws do not protect the right of indigenous communities to own and control their lands, nor do they require free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for land acquisition. Companies involved in land acquisition for commercial purposes – especially extractives and food and beverage companies - should follow international guidelines on obtaining free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), with procedures that ensure equal representation of indigenous women and children in consultations.
UNICEF, 2017, State of the World’s Children 2017: https://data.unicef.org/
UNICEF Egypt, 2017, Country website: https://www.unicef.org/egypt/
UNICEF, 2017, Children in Egypt 2016: a statistical digest: https://www.unicef.org/egypt/eg_Children_In_Egypt_2016(3).pdf
UNICEF, 2017, Levels and trends in child mortality: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Child_Mortality_Report_2017.pdf
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