4 July 2012

Zambia: Policy Analysis - Creating Jobs for Youths


THE Government projects to create one million formal jobs in the five-year period ending December 2015.

The projection which is enshrined in the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Strategic Plan for 2011-2015 is, however, a tall order and sounds somewhat over-ambitious.

This formidable task is compounded by the fact that despite 300,000 youths being offloaded on the job market per year, only about 5,000 of them are able to find some semblance of employment.

Leaving the rest grappling with the effects of joblessness!

Currently, the tertiary education facilities can only accommodate about 13,000 of them but even if more were absorbed, we would only manage to postpone the problem because eventually those students would graduate and would still need jobs.

What makes the situation even more pessimistic is the fact that - in terms of job creation - the country has not been performing well all along, especially after the privatisation.

According to Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda, between Zambia's independence and now, the job creation exercise has not moved correspondingly with the population explosion we have had.

While the country's population has increased by 330 per cent, formal employment has just increased by 75 per cent in the same period.

Out of about six million people who are employable, only 700,000 of them are actually in the formal sector.

And the yearly inclusions have been pathetically few - 5,000.

In terms of percentage, it's a meagre 0.7 per cent and statisticians will tell us how long it will take to employ 300,000 more, just to reach one-million mark.

It is indeed a tall order, but what is positive is that the Government is not trying to shy away from the issue.

It wants to confront it, hopefully, with the vigour it requires.

It is indeed brave and prudent of Government to declare its resolve to create the one million jobs.

Otherwise it had the option of the easy way out - just remain non-committal by not giving any figures.

But a vision should always be specific, despite doubts.

Many leaders would rather come up with vague visions so that, should their plans fail, they would find loopholes to advance the succeeding interpretation of the vision.

The other important aspect is how to achieve the specific vision and for Mr Chikwanda, one million jobs could be created by growing the economy at higher rates than we are doing currently.

We need to grow the economy by as high as 8.3 per cent per year as opposed to the current average rate of about 6.5 per cent.

That is the only way what seems to be a tall order can be surmounted.

The creation of one million formal jobs in five years is one of the performance indicators for Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Strategic Plan for its objective to promote the growth and development of the Micro, Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (MSMEs).

Therefore, Government envisages that by December 2015, it would have created a venture capital fund and a credit guarantee scheme while 5,000 MSMEs would have had credit access totaling K500 million.

Further, 250 business linkages to large corporations would have been created for MSMEs while 150 industrial clusters would have been established.

Additionally, 10 business incubators would have been formed and the enterprise growth from one performance level to another would have been increased by 10 per cent to ensure graduation.

What is even more inspiring is that, Government is talking about real and productive jobs not jobs just to appease people.

That is cardinal to ensure we do not return to the old days when most of the Government departments were mere employment agencies employing people just for the sake of it.

Every job created should be productive so that the employee, no matter how lowly-placed could add value to the hiring organisation and ultimately to national economy.

Those are the kind of jobs the nation desires.

A job should be decent while the job-holder should be productive enough to help create other jobs.

This calls for a change of mindset especially among the lucky few who are already in employment to ensure we all put in more than we are getting out.

That is the only way to help create more jobs for next peers.

If we are always getting out of the organisation more than the value of the efforts we are putting in, then we may be eating the very seed we are supposed to sow to create more jobs.

Come to think of it, all the strategies Government has put in place concerning the creation of one million hinges on human resources, as they could only be implemented by the Zambian workers, public or private ones.

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