With over 83 million inhabitants, of whom around 57 per cent live in rural areas, Egypt is one of the most populous countries in the world. The estimated labour force (economically active population) is 32.4 million, with 30 million people actually employed (according to the 2009 Census). The unemployment rate is on the rise, from 9 per cent in 2009 to 13 per cent in 2013. Women constitute only 23.9 per cent of the employed labour force. Egypt is a middle-income country with a GDP annual growth rate of 2.2 per cent (World Bank, 2013). Agriculture represents an important sector of the national economy, engaging about 34 per cent of the total employed population. The sector contributed about 15.5 per cent of GDP in 2005/06, with a growth rate of 3.2 per cent per year.
While many indicators reflect the country’s remarkable progress, there remain challenges. The poverty rate in Egypt is 25.2 per cent of the population, with 4.8 per cent of the population (4.32 million) living under conditions of extreme poverty. The poverty rates of 17 per cent in Lower Egypt and 51.4 per cent in Upper Egypt reveal significant regional disparities. Of 1.6 million child labourers, 83.8 per cent reside in rural areas and 64 per cent work in agriculture. About 24.9 per cent of the population are illiterate, with particularly high rates among women and in rural areas.
In spite of the economic importance of agriculture there has been a decrease in government investment directed to the agriculture sector in recent years.