Dar es Salaam — The Tanzanian government should stop the practice of extending the tenure of government employees beyond the mandatory retirement age in order to improve employment opportunities for the country's youth, a number of lawmakers say.
"I do not think extensions should cease for all positions, but should be limited to technical professions," parliamentarian David Kafulila told Sabahi.
He said university professors, doctors, nurses, pilots and people in fields that require technical knowledge should be the only civilian workers eligible for contract extensions beyond the retirement age.
Permanent secretaries, department directors and other administrative staff, on the other hand, should promptly retire at the age of 60 as mandated by law, he said, adding that extensions are often issued based on nepotism and not merit. "We seriously need to review the law to address these shortfalls sooner."
Based on data from the Policy Research for Development institution in Tanzania, 3.5 million youths entered the workforce in the past five years, but only 1 million new jobs have been made available for them.
Parliamentarian Tundu Lissu said the government has performed poorly when it comes to creating new jobs for Tanzanians entering the workforce, and delaying the retirement age exacerbates the problem of youth unemployment.
Even though Tanzania shifted to a free market system in 1987, there are still many state-owned companies in various industries and the government remains the biggest employer in the country.
"By retiring those who turn 60, [the government] can create more jobs for the young generation," he told Sabahi.
However, Celina Kombani, minister of state in the president's office of public service management, said contract extensions are granted according to merit, and the government should be able to make exceptions based on the country's needs.
"Some employees might not be in technical departments, but they might have established important projects for the nation that need their immediate care to keep going," Kombani told Sabahi. "Therefore, such grounds force us to extend their tenure and we will continue doing so."
Shifting job creation to the private sector
Benson Mahenya, economist and director of Andrew's Consulting Group, said Tanzanians should stop thinking of the government as the only employer in the country.
"Thinking that the government can employ every graduate is just unreasonable," Mahenya told Sabahi.
He said new graduates can become entrepreneurs by investing in small-scale businesses that need little capital. "Graduates should put their education towards self-employment," he said. "Only the private sector is capable of absorbing the majority of graduates."
Mahenya also suggested that newcomers to the workforce volunteer at various institutions and ministries to accrue needed experience.
Deputy Minister for Labour and Employment Makongoro Mahanga acknowledged that policies regarding government employment need improvement.
"I think when someone turns 60, he or she should retire," he told Sabahi. "I have heard the complaints [about extensions], and I do not intend to fault my government here, but you know the government has its own way of amending the laws. When the time comes it will be amended."
Mahanga said the government is working to address unemployment by encouraging private investors. "The government is very committed on this," he told Sabahi. "We have passed the public-private partnership law, which is complementing government efforts to boost investment and hence create more jobs."
A chance to acquire experience
Stanley Kahangwa, 27, a law graduate at the University of Dar es Salaam, said he has not found a job in the three years since his graduation.
"The government should encourage a succession plan," Kahangwa told Sabahi, adding that youths should be given the opportunity to work with experienced government employees before they retire as a way to transfer skills from one generation to the next.
Didier Wilson, 26-year-old University of Dar es Salaam graduate, said he sells apples along Nyerere Road in Dar es Salaam. He majored in public administration in 2010, but has not been able to find a more permanent job.
"My hopes were high [after graduating], but every office I go to and almost all job adverts ask for five to seven years of experience, which I do not have," he said. "So I said to myself, 'Let me try selling apples, which does not need experience.' "