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Sustaining Spring in Egypt

'Just Jobs' for Growth and Stability

SOURCE: AP/Amr Nabil

An Egyptian building worker waits on a street corner for an assignment in Cairo.

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The emerging Egyptian democracy and the Arab Spring are now synonymous in the eyes of the world, and, most importantly, in the eyes of the Egyptian people. But any sustainable democratic success rests on the transformation of the Egyptian economy, which over the past several decades produced jobless growth that was unstable, unequal, and ultimately unsustainable. In fact, the success of the Arab Spring across the Arab world probably rests over the long haul on Egyptian job growth that is stable and sustainable—providing a template and a vision for economic, social, and democratic political reform.

This is why the Just Jobs Network, coordinated by the Center for American Progress is holding its first annual meeting in Cairo, on May 27, 2011. The meeting will discuss key challenges and mechanisms for good job creation in Egypt, in the Arab world, and around the globe as a necessary basis for broad-based, sustainable economic growth.

Policy experts; government leaders; representatives from local, regional, and international unions; nongovernmental organizations; and think tanks will come together to discuss challenges and solutions for just job creation in Egypt and lessons that can be extrapolated for developing countries worldwide. Among others, the Norwegian State Secretary Gry Larsen, former European Union commissioner for trade and former first secretary of state in the United Kingdom government Lord Peter Mandelson, Director of the Center for Trade Union Worker Services Kamal Abbas, and Vice President of Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress Michael Ettlinger will all be in attendance.

The unrest in the Middle East and North Africa highlights both the importance and the urgency of creating enough just jobs in the short and long run. Just jobs, complete with labor rights including the right to organize and collective bargaining, appropriate remuneration, social protections such as health care and pensions, and opportunities for economic mobility, are key for broad-based growth and stability. By helping to raise living standards, just jobs serve as instruments for promoting global stability and security.

Supporting an increase in just jobs in developing countries is a win-win for developed countries as well. Standards of living converge on an upward trajectory. Rules and regulations ensure this happens across the globe. And the resulting economic and political stability rebounds to benefit developed and developing countries alike. This meeting is the first step in helping policymakers develop pragmatic and specific steps to power forward this virtuous circle.

For this kind of economy to take hold and flourish in Egypt and around the globe will require sustained focus by policymakers with potential lessons for nearby Tunisia and other Arab states in North Africa and the Middle East. A framework for the cooperative effort required is the first priority of the first annual meeting of the Just Jobs Network.

Sabina Dewan is Director of Globalization and International Employment at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about the Just Jobs program, go to the Center’s Just Jobs page.

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