Call it Egyptian exceptionalism? Egyptians optimistic despite week economy
While 37% of Egyptians share a positive sentiment that their personal financial position will improve in the next six months, 79% also expect the cost of living to increase, according to the latest Bayt.com Middle East and North Africa Consumer Confidence Index survey, conducted by Bayt.com, the Middle East’s number one job site, and YouGov, the region’s reputed research and consulting organisation.
Across the region, less than a fifth (17%) of those surveyed are of the opinion that their personal financial situation improved, compared to six months ago, Bayt.com reported. However, 39% said their situation remained the same and 37% said their situation declined. This has affected the savings of 58%, who reported seeing a decrease in their savings in comparison to last year. Four out of 10 (39%) survey respondents said they were optimistic that, in the next six months, things will get better for them, even though 78% anticipate the cost of living to increase.
Almost a third (30%) of respondents in the MENA region said they plan to buy a vehicle for personal use in the next 12 months, with 49% preferring to buy a used vehicle and 44% seeking a new one. Nearly a fifth (19%) are planning to invest in property within the same period, with new apartments being the most popular consideration for purchase.
The top three consumer goods purchases that respondents said they plan to make include: desktop or laptop computers (26%), furniture (18%), and LCD or plasma televisions (16%).
In Egypt, 16% reported that their financial position has improved in the last six months, while 34% claimed there has been no change, and 42% reported a decline. Sixty-one percent of respondents said their savings decreased compared to 12 months ago. The outlook is positive, however, with 37% anticipating their financial situation to change for the better within the coming six months, despite the fact that 79% of Egyptians expect cost of living to increase within the same time period.
Among the 24% of Egyptians who are considering buying a vehicle for personal use in the next 12 months, 51% said they would prefer a used vehicle. Sixteen percent said they plan to invest in property within the next 12 months. Amongst property investors, 59% will look for newly-built properties, and 56% will opt for apartments.
Respondents in Egypt are interested in buying desktop or laptop computers (24%), LCD or plasma televisions (15%), and furniture (13%) in the next six months.
There is a significant split within the MENA regions when it comes to respondents’ evaluation of the economy in their country of residence. In the GCC, respondents are generally positive about the economy, believing that it has mostly improved in the last six months. However, countries in the Levant and North Africa are less positive, with those in the Levant in particular, believing that their country’s economic situation has dramatically receded when compared to the economy of six months ago. The Levant countries are also less positive about the future of their economy, with the majority of respondents holding the belief that things will get worse.
Across the region, 50% of those surveyed said they are optimistic about the future business conditions in their respective countries. This sentiment is much stronger amongst GCC residents (average of 62%) and weakest across the Levant region (average of 27%). The state of business conditions reflects the regional opinion of job availability; respondents in GCC countries said they believe that there are plenty of job opportunities, whereas those in the Levant and North Africa believe the opposite to be true. Respondents in the GCC are also more positive about an increase in the number of jobs in the next six months.
Five out of 10 Egyptian respondents (52%) said the country’s economy has declined in the last six months – a trend that 30% believe will continue in the six months to come. Business conditions are considered to be good to very good by 18% of respondents, with five in 10 (50%) claiming that things will become better in a year’s time.
There are few jobs available in Egypt according to 68% of respondents, with the majority sharing no hope of more openings to appear in the coming six months (as stated by 54%).
There is a near even three-way split across the region in regards to the change in the number of employees within respondents’ companies in the last six months; 30% said there has been an increase in employees, 30% said there has been a decrease, and 34% said there has been no change. In the next six months, slightly more than one third (35%) said they anticipate their organisation to grow, while a similar number (35%) expect the workforce to remain the same.
Respondents are also relatively evenly split in terms of their level of satisfaction with respect to career growth opportunities, with 38% satisfied and 41% dissatisfied with the opportunities available to them. Compensation is considered to be unsatisfactory by 53% of the region’s respondents. However, when it comes to non-monetary benefits received, 42% said they are satisfied and 41% claim dissatisfaction. The opinion about job security is also split evenly, with 40% being satisfied with their level of job security and another 39% unsatisfied.
Thirty-nine percent of respondents said there are fewer employees working with them now than half a year ago, suggesting that companies in Egypt have not been hiring in the past six months. This trend will continue as a quarter of Egypt respondents (23%) expect to have fewer colleagues in the coming six months.
Egyptian respondents said they are not content with the career growth opportunities (46%), non-monetary benefits (51%), and level of job security (48%) in their current position. At least six in ten (57%) reported being unhappy with their salary and allowances.
“Despite a regional consensus on a proportional rise in the cost of living, positive sentiment across the region, particularly in the GCC countries and more recently among North African states, can be seen,” said Suhail Al-Masri, vice president of Sales, Bayt.com. “An increased cost of living may negatively impact consumers’ ability to live comfortably and save, affecting the overall morale and job satisfaction of the MENA employee. In fact, we have recorded a particular dissatisfaction with salary and allowances that should be addressed by employers across the region in order to avoid a situation in which talent could migrate elsewhere. We believe that this is absolutely doable, especially when you know that the majority of MENA respondents expect business conditions to get better in a year’s time.”
Suhail Shaikh, Director, YouGov stated: “Although some countries in the region, such as those in the GCC, are more likely to see further economic buoyancy, the rising cost of living will be a major hurdle for most in the MENA region. People in the Levant and North Africa are more likely to feel the financial burden as their economies battle against the socio-political uncertainties.”
Data for the Bayt.com Middle East and North Africa Consumer Confidence Index Survey – March 2014 was collected online from 9-24 February, with 6,728 respondents aged 18 years and above. Respondents were from the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
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