Informality and Access to Services Among Youth of Cairo’s Informal Urban Neighborhoods

Rasha Hassan, Population Council
Rania Roushdy , The American University in Cairo
Maia Sieverding, American University of Beirut

The growth of informal urban settlements – known in Egypt as ashwaiyyat – is often attributed to the failure of urban housing policy and the spread of informal markets paralleling many formal institutions. Popular discourse in Egypt has constructed the ashwaiyyat as problematic; they are widely seen as areas of insecurity, poverty and extremism (Bayat & Denis, 2000). Young people growing up in informal areas are often assumed to be facing multiple inequalities of opportunity compared to formal urban dwellers. This paper draws on representative survey of nearly 3,000 young people aged 15–29 and complementary qualitative interviews to examine how access to and experiences with formal services and institutions influence young people’s lived experiences in ashwaiyyat of Cairo. We also explore how youth negotiate their inclusion/exclusion from formal services, and the informal mechanisms of social support and conflict resolution they rely on in the face of unreliable public services.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality