CAIRO: Ahmed el-Borei, former minister of social solidarity in 2013 and of manpower in 2011, is facing six Arab candidates for the elections of the new general director for the Arab Labor Organization (ALO), whom is to succeed its current Yemeni chairman Ahmed Luqman.
“My priority concern is fighting unemployment,” Borei told The Cairo Post Monday. “The Arab world suffers from a problem in the distribution of the labor force, which is what the ALO should be working on in the coming period,” he added.
In his campaign, Borei said he argues for the “need and right to a decent job to be able to make a living.”
“By 2020, we could have up to 100 million unemployed Arabs,” Borei said.
According to the ALO’s report on unemployment of 2013, the total Arab population number was estimated at nearly 354 million in 2010 and is expected to reach 486.7 in 2030, with an average annual increase by 25 percent, one of the world’s highest rates.
“Not only have the young committed suicide – some famous incidents of young people burning themselves in the spark of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions – others have become so desperate that they seek under-qualified jobs,” the program stated.
The World Bank’s quarterly report for July 2014 in seven MENA countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya and Iran, said that the average unemployment rate among youth aged between 14 and 24 has “remained stubbornly high,” with 22 percent for men and 39 percent for women.
In November 2013, Luqman had stated that unemployment rate in the Arab world increased from 14 to 16 percent from 2012 to 2013, Anadolu News Agency reported.
Borei told The Cairo Post that the ALO should focus on skills training, especially that the Arab labor market demand exists, but that a re-distribution of labor forces was needed to meet the demand.
Borei said his vision is to replace non-Arab manpower, notably from Asia, by Arabs.
A national duty
Borei’s candidacy has faced by a divided reaction in his home country; his supporters are mostly independent syndicate unions, and his opponents from official syndicate unions in Egypt.
Independent unions and syndicates are likely to back up Borei due to his previous push for the establishment of independent syndicates. “They are the real forces operating on real grounds and capable of defending workers’ rights,” Al-Dostour news website quoted Borei in 2012.
Nonetheless, independent syndicates are not legitimately authorized to vote in the ALO elections. But an ongoing campaign to support his candidacy is active and includes members from different local labor institutions such as the ministries of manpower, foreign affairs, and independent workers.
“It is a national duty to support our candidate,” Secretary-General of the Egyptian Union for Independent Syndicates and member of Borei’s campaign Bassem Halqa told The Cairo Post Monday who believes most workers will vote for Borei.
Halqa said incumbent director Luqman had requested the postponement of the elections, and that this violates ALO’s General Assembly decision on the date of the elections, suggesting he is “seeking to keep his post.”
Many older official worker unions, however, grouped under the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) strongly oppose Borei’s candidacy and program and the presence of independent unions’ opinions, as well as their existence in general.
“Syndical unions under one official body have been sought and achieved all around the world, because people have realized their power, but the emergence of numerous syndicates makes it impossible for powers to unite,” ETUF’s Secretary-General Gamal Abdul Moneim told The Cairo Post.
“Borei stated that he was not going to call for more independent syndicates in Arab countries,” which makes his ideas seem contradicted, since he was the force behind that movement in Egypt, Abdul Moneim added.
Borei has been vocally opposed to the idea of kafeel, a practice in Gulf States which requires immigrant workers to be under the supervision of a visa sponsor who is also in charge of their legal affairs. But he has said he does not intend to advocate against it if elected director of the ALO, as it would be considered an internal sovereign matter.
Borei was named Egypt’s candidate for the position by former Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy, and has presented a campaign which focused on labor reforms in the Arab world. His competition for the post includes Fayez al-Matary from Kuwait, Adnan Abu Ragheb from Jordan, Nassar al-Rabei from Iraq, Gamal Aghmany from Morrocco, Rashid al-Gamal from Lebanon and Ahmed al-Zew from Palestine, Youm7 reported Monday.
The elections are to be held in Cairo from Sept. 14 to 21, during the ALO’s 41st Conference. Luqman had requested to be exempted from his post before the end of his term in May 2015, the News Agency of Arab workers had stated in April 2013.