Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 March 2020
Chapter six examines the impact of liberalization on the lives of Egyptian workers and the growth of industrial unrest in the 2000s. After a slow start, the pace of liberalization began to accelerate in the mid-1990s, sparking the beginning of the largest strike-wave since the early 1970s. In response, the regime sought to placate the workers by increasing wages and public sector employment. Beginning in 2004, the government of businessmen reinvigorated the neoliberal project. Between 2004 and 2008, privatizations accelerated significantly and labour market reforms stripped workers of what rights they retained. By 2008, the number of strikes increased dramatically, and the official trade union movement was unable to contain the discontent against the regime. A new generation of workers, many of whom were radicalized women, would begin to question the legitimacy of the regime and struggle to create an independent union movement. These struggles, while not as visible as the student protests of Tahrir Square in 2010-11, would ultimately signal the beginning of the end of the Mubarak regime.