By Malvern Mkudu
‘Zimbabweans are underemployed’
Zimbabweans were described as severely underemployed at a roundtable discussion on the creation of employment organised by the Media Centre two weeks ago in Harare. More and more Zimbabweans are losing secure employment in the formal economy and taking up unproductive work in the informal sector.While the rest of the world is moving away from the informal sector to the formal economy, Zimbabwe is doing the opposite.
Industries are downsizing and retrenching. This means that there is less and less money to spend on consumption which further shrinks the economy and results in more retrenchments. The country is caught in a vicious cycle.
Has the ruling ZANU PF government failed to create jobs as promised? Mr Nyasha Muchichwa an economist with LDRS said “The government has
not failed but it is failing”. If the current situation continues then more jobs will be lost.
But what is the correct unemployment figure in the country? Is it 84% or 5,6%? Mr Simbarashe Sibanda who represented the International Labour Organisation said unemployment is as given by the Statistics department and around 10%.
According to the strict definition of employment, many Zimbabweans are considered as employed. The discussion needs to move away from unemployment to under employment. He said most of the jobs in the informal sector were not secure and many Zimbabweans have very high education qualifications. The government needs to create better jobs for these.
Mr Muchichwa added that the unemployment figures given by Zimstats were likely to be very distorted. Zimbabwe has no social welfare programmes or unemployment benefits that provide safety nets for the unemployed. There is therefore no way of recording if those in the informal sector have not been looking for employment elsewhere.
This was also echoed by the vendors’ representative who said that most of the vendors were very skilled and had been forced into vending by the economic situation. He disagreed with the unemployment figures arguing that most of the vendors in his association wanted alternative employment.
The vendors castigated the government for claiming vendors in their ‘impressive’ employment figures but now seeking to remove them from the streets through the back door. Millions of dollars are being spent in tertiary education institutions only for the graduates to come out and do vending amongst other jobs that are not in tandem with their training.
Mr Sibanda urged government and other stakeholders to engage each other and find ways of formalising the informal sector and integrating it in the main economy.
Until a solution is found, Zimbabwe’s economy is expected to worsen. The ruling party will not manage to meet its targets of creating 2 million jobs in the 5 years it will be in power.