By Mohamed Abaid, Independent Libyan Analyst

Mohamed Abaid

Libya, a North African country with a rich history and diverse cultural influences, has been experiencing a significant influx of Egyptian labour migrants. A recent study conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provides an in-depth analysis of this phenomenon, revealing some intriguing patterns and trends. The study, based on a sample of 1,000 Egyptian labour migrants in Libya, offers a comprehensive overview of their socio-economic conditions and their impact on Libya's retail and construction sectors.


Demographics of Egyptian Labour Migrants

The demographic profile of the Egyptian labour migrants in Libya is predominantly male, with males constituting 98% of the respondents. The majority of these migrants are relatively young, with 41% aged between 18 and 29, and 42% aged between 30 and 39. A significant majority (72%) are married, and their education levels vary, with 30% having completed primary education, 27% secondary education, and 9% tertiary education. A significant portion (34%) reported having no formal education.


Reasons for Migration and Employment Status

The primary reason for migration, as reported by 81% of the respondents, was to seek employment. Upon arriving in Libya, 74% of the respondents found employment, 16% were self-employed, and 10% were unemployed. The majority of these migrants (56%) reported earning between 1,000 and 2,000 Libyan Dinar per month.


Egyptian Influence on Libya's Retail and Construction Sectors

The sectors of employment for these migrants are diverse, with the construction sector employing the majority (37%). However, the influence of Egyptian labour migrants extends beyond the construction sector and is significantly felt in Libya's retail sector.


Egyptian migrants have been instrumental in shaping the retail landscape in Libya, particularly in the operation of butcher shops, teashops, coffee shops, clothes shops, and wholesale businesses. Their presence in these sectors is noticeable and has implications for the local economy.


The Problem

The increasing dominance of Egyptian labour migrants in key sectors of Libya's economy, while beneficial in some respects, also presents a significant challenge. The fact that a sizeable portion of the Libyan economy is controlled by foreign nationals can lead to economic instability and a lack of control over key sectors. This situation could potentially undermine local entrepreneurship, skew the job market, and lead to an over-reliance on foreign labour and investment.


Libya's economy has traditionally been heavily reliant on the oil sector, which has led to a lack of diversification and an overemphasis on a single industry. This over-reliance on the oil sector has left other sectors underdeveloped and unable to compete with foreign businesses. This is particularly evident in sectors such as retail and construction, where Egyptian businesses have been able to establish a strong presence due to their experience and expertise.


Furthermore, there seems to be a reluctance among Libyans to work in certain sectors. For example, sectors such as fishing, which require specific skills and experience, are dominated by Egyptian workers who have brought their expertise from Egypt. This has led to a situation where Libyans are missing out on employment opportunities in their own country.


Policy Recommendations

Promote Local Entrepreneurship: Policies should be implemented to encourage and support local entrepreneurship. This could include providing access to capital, business training, and mentorship programs for Libyan entrepreneurs.


Regulate Foreign Labour: Labour policies should balance the need for foreign labour with the need to create employment opportunities for Libyans. This could include policies that regulate the number of foreign workers in certain sectors and ensure that Libyan workers have fair access to job opportunities.


Control Foreign Investment: Economic policies should encourage foreign investment while ensuring that the control and ownership of key sectors remain within Libya. This could include policies that limit the percentage of foreign ownership in certain sectors and ensure that foreign businesses contribute to the local economy through taxes and other forms of economic contribution.


Diversify the Economy: Efforts should be made to diversify the Libyan economy and reduce its over-reliance on the oil sector. This could involve investing in other sectors, providing training and education to equip Libyans with the skills needed to work in these sectors, and promoting these sectors as viable employment options.



The influence of Egyptian labour migrants on Libya's retail and construction sectors is undeniable. Their presence has brought about significant changes in these sectors, leading to increased competition and diversity. However, it is crucial to ensure that this influence does not negatively impact local businesses and employment opportunities. With the right policies and initiatives, Libya can create a balanced and inclusive economy that benefits all stakeholders. The challenge lies in implementing these policies in a manner that is fair, inclusive, and sustainable.


Disclaimer:  The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Libya Observer