By: Masaar – Technology & Law Community
Conceptualized and commissioned by Access to Knowledge for Development for the Fairwork project, in collaboration with the Oxford Internet Institute and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
The new Social Insurance and Pensions Law1 was issued to replace the revoked Law No. 112 of 1980 on Universal Social Security Systems. It was decided that most of the new Law’s provisions shall be effective as of January 1, 2020. A year after the Law was passed, the executive regulations thereof were promulgated.2
The Law consists of twelve chapters as follows: Chapter 1 – definitions; Chapter 2 – management and financing of social insurance and pension systems; chapters 3 to 6 address insurance in cases of old age, death, sickness, disability, work injury and unemployment; Chapter 7 addresses health care for pensioners; Chapter 8 regulates who shall be eligible for pensions; chapters 9 and 10 address public treasury matters and the general, miscellaneous and transitional provisions; and the last chapter regulates the penalties stipulated for violation of the provisions thereof. In some of its articles, the Law authorizes the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Social Insurance (NOSI) to issue decisions complementing the provisions and terms thereof, including, for example, adding other categories of precarious (irregular) employment subject to its provisions.
Although the Law is recent, some members of parliament have filed claims pertaining to more than one draft law to amend some of the articles thereof. Last February, the Manpower Committee of the House of Representatives discussed a draft law submitted by MP Diaa Eldin Dawood and signed by sixty MPs, which he had previously submitted in November of last year. It called for the amendment of eight articles, adding an article, and abolishing two articles, in addition to canceling table (5) attached to the applicable law. This was attributed to the fact that the Law disregards some categories of informal labor in the sectors of tourism, building and construction, fishing, mines, quarries, malls, gas stations, coffee shops, and clubs, as well as technicians in the cinema, drama, and theater sectors.3 In December of last year, another draft law was referred to the Manpower Committee to amend some of the articles thereof, which had been previously submitted by MP Sulaf Darwish and signed by sixty other MPs. However, the fate of such projects remains unknown.
Many freelancers do not fall under any of the categories governed by the Social Insurance and Pensions Law:
The Law classified the categories to which the provisions thereof apply into four:
- Employed for others (any individual permanently working for others such as the private sector);
- Employers and the like (company and enterprise owners);
- Egyptian workers abroad (Egyptian individuals working outside of Egypt);
- Irregular labor (categories that work irregularly, such as street vendors or domestic workers).
The Law stipulates a set of regulations and conditions for each category to include thereunder certain individuals rather than others. In other words, the Law shall not apply to individuals who do not meet the stipulated conditions and they shall not be covered by the social insurance umbrella.
This issue faces many freelancers and self-employed people, as the law does not include them under any of the aforementioned four categories because they do not meet the stipulated regulations and conditions.
The employed category requires having regular work relations linking the insured to the employer. The executive regulations explained the concept of regularity, whereas the job performed by the worker shall, by nature, fall under the scope of activities practiced by the employer or lasts for the duration of at least six months. Thus, such regulations do not apply to freelancers because there is no regular work relation as stated above. Freelancing requires quick performance; in most cases it is limited to short-term projects that do not exceed six months; and the nature of the tasks thereof might not fall under the activities performed by the employer and is often different.
The legislator excluded certain labor categories (without others) from being governed by the aforementioned regulations and conditions, including those who work in contracting, fishing, land transport and stevedoring. Nevertheless, the legislators disregarded the ongoing developments in new jobs, especially occupations that operate through platforms that provide e-services. Freelancers were not included in those categories
With regards to dealing with freelancers as employers, the Law stipulates two conditions under which the employers shall fall under the social insurance umbrella: 1- their activity must be regulated under specific laws; 2- they must be authorized by the administrative authority to perform the activities thereof. Both conditions are inapplicable to most freelancers as many of the activities they perform have not been yet defined by the legislator. In addition, there are no regulating laws thereof.
As for irregular labor, which is the closest to freelancing, the Law exclusively stated the work that may fall under the said category. Some freelancers can be deemed small-scale self-employed workers, such as street vendors, craftsmen and the like. They shall fall under the category of irregular labor, and the conditions mentioned in the regulations shall apply to them, including not employing workers or performing activities in fixed work premises with a commercial register, and their activities must not be subject to the licensing system of administrative authorities. However, the National Organization for Social Insurance (NOSI) refuses to include them in this category.
Although the Law authorized the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Social Insurance to issue decisions to incorporate other workers under this category and set other conditions for the association thereof, no decisions have yet been issued concerning freelancers. This problem can be solved by issuing a regulatory decision that includes certain categories of the self-employed under the umbrella of irregular labor. Nonetheless, this would be a temporary solution that further needs a radical intervention to redefine the concept of freelancing and to set out regulations and conditions for insurance protection according to general–or universal–standards, not merely through the designation of categories and occupations.
1. Law No.48 of 2019 on “Promulgating the Social Insurance and Pensions Law” was published in the official gazette, Issue No. 33 bis (A) on August 19, 2019.
2. Prime Minister Decree No. 2437 of 2021 on promulgating the executive regulations of the Social Insurance and Pensions Law, published in the official gazette, Issue No. 5 bis (B) on February 7, 2020.
3.Published on Al-Dostoor News Portal entitled “Trade Union Services” call upon labor leaders to support the draft amendments to Insurance Law’” dated February 5, 2022. Last access on August 21, 2022.