Apparently, seeing their child as a “mini-me” pleases many Egyptian parents who are quite eager to observe their life course (entailing the sum of their virtues and vices) portrayed in their children. Happiness and success are often measured in accordance with the parents’ particular perspectives, consisting mainly of children upholding their parents’ values, beliefs—and even career paths. While they may not always be aware of it, many parents manage, in one way or another, to imprint their passions, as well as their professions, upon their children, making sure that they inherit both.
“Passion is genetically inherited,” is a claim that Egyptian parents often make. They argue that being an ‘exemplary role model’ for their children will consequently prompt sons and daughters to pursue the same careers as those chosen by their parents. Moreover, these children also have the ‘natural’ advantage of learning, through direct firsthand experience, all about the ‘concealed’ details of their parents’ occupations. These are all false arguments, designed to justify the parents’ desire to bequeath their jobs to their children and make sure that they are secure in their inherited positions. In making these arguments, parents choose to ignore the years of effort spent on raising their children with the goal of eventually handing down their jobs (and even their career paths) to them.
Greed is the true driving force motivating Egyptians who want their children to inherit their occupations. Egyptians begin their professional careers by struggling with the government either to register their businesses or to be hired by a government or private entity. In our unprofessional and corrupt environment, this process normally entails submitting to unfair competition and invariably results in people using unseemly methods to defend and sustain their posts or occupations until they have managed to establish something that is solid, sustainable, and rewarding. Simply put, no one is willing to sacrifice the rewards of years of effort for the sake of an outsider.
The difficulties inherent in setting up an enterprise or embarking on a professional career, combined with the cultural traditions of ‘family job succession’ and ensuring children’s job security, lead most Egyptian parents to want to hand down to their children their professions or enterprises. This is literally true in all fields of work, from the running of privately owned enterprises to paid positions—and it is even true for professions that call for specific gifts or talents, such as politics, athletics, or art.
“Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” best describes the famous practice applied, in all professional fields, when interviewing a job applicant whose father belongs to the same professional field. Nobody is ashamed of this method; its practitioners defend it proudly, claiming that their offspring are the most qualified cadres to occupy their positions.
Merit, morals, and skill are not determining factors in a country like Egypt where influential parents have the power to open backdoors for their children, allowing them to pursue a certain type of education and a particular career, initially designed for other, more highly qualified, students. Many of our educational policies and job recruitment interview processes have been re-articulated to help such people enter professional fields for which they are not qualified. The desire of Egyptian parents to secure jobs for their children often comes at a very high price for society.
Former president Hosni Mubarak was one of the exceptions; a parent who failed to make his son succeed him. The attempt by the former president’s son to replace his father’s entourage with his own team was one of many factors that eventually triggered Egyptians to revolt against the entire Mubarak regime in January 2011. Ironically, the majority of the Egyptians who refused the succession of Mubarak’s son to the presidency are personally engaged—in their respective professions—in the practice of illegally or improperly transferring their jobs to their children.
The job succession process in Egypt is all about family; it has nothing to do with the preservation of entities or with ensuring continued success. Egyptians want to see their family bloodlines continue through their children, and our professional entities play the role of ‘chains of descent’. This situation often concludes in lazy, low-performing students gaining access to university faculties that demand high-performing students; football players with no particular skills playing for top-ranking clubs; actors with little if any talent assigned roles in legendary movies—or even a dull politician winning an election with his father’s help.
The ultimate result of this widespread practice is an incompetent society constituted of many layers struggling against one another. The first layer is made up of persons who are not pursuing their passions, but whose inherited professions are quite rewarding. The second layer is composed of individuals who believe that their accomplishments entitle them to better career opportunities—opportunities that were stolen from them by the influential social layer. The members of the third layer are not interested in this argumentation philosophy—they know how to deal with corruption to make a comfortable living. This unjust and unconstructive struggle among social layers comes at the expense of establishing a genuinely modernised nation.