11 February 2013

Zambia: Decent Work Agenda Solution to Poverty

DECENT work is cardinal to efforts of poverty reduction and a means for achieving equitable and sustainable development.

A respectable job involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, provides security in the workplace and social protection for workers and their families.

Decent work also gives people the freedom to express their concerns, organise and to participate in decisions that affect their lives.

But is this applicable to most Zambians? The answer is no!

It is against this background that Government has started working towards the attainment of this goal.

The Government is reviewing labour laws, a development that would see tremendous improvements in the labour market.

Secondly, Government launched the Decent Work Country profile which is aimed at critically assessing progress towards the achievement of decent work in Zambia.

The Government believes the decent work agenda is an appropriate policy framework that is vital in poverty eradication.

The labour force survey results when evaluated together with the decent work country profile would form a basis towards reforming the policy and legal frameworks surrounding decent work.

The Decent Work Country Profile for Zambia has been prepared by national consultants under the coordination of the Zambia Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCP) Advisory Committee, with the active participation of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Central Statistical Office (CSO), with the technical assistance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) experts.

National partners identified a list of decent work indicators relevant for Zambia during the tripartite consultation workshop on measuring decent work in Siavonga in January 2010.

The legal and statistical indicators were compiled according to the national list of decent work indicators and analysed within the social and economic context that had prevailed in Zambia during the last decade (2000-2010).

The draft Profile was discussed by constituents during the Tripartite Validation Workshop of the Zambia Decent Work Country Profile (Lusaka, December 2011), with the participation of the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and Labour, the CSO, the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, and representatives of the Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE), the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Federation of Free Trade Unions of Zambia (FFTUZ).

The main results of the profile were important inputs for designing and implementing the Zambia Decent Work Country Programme.

Besides, the profile for Zambia represents an important advocacy tool for mainstreaming decent work into national development plans.

Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda, when launching the profile, said Government would not be ashamed to release statistics on the high unemployment levels in Zambia.

"Government will not be ashamed to release statistics on unemployment as they stand unlike the previous regime which wanted to sweep them under the carpet. Pretence never helps," Mr Shamenda said.

The decent work profile will protect workers from unfair dismissal and ensure the right to work normal hours and security of work are all fundamental rights of every worker.

The Decent Work Country Profiles covers ten substantive elements corresponding to the four strategic pillars of the decent work agenda.

It covers full and productive employment, rights at work, social protection and the promotion of social dialogue, employment opportunities; adequate earnings and productive work.

The profile also covers decent hours, combining work, family and personal life; work that should be abolished; stability and security of work; equal opportunity and treatment in employment; safe work environment; social security; and, social dialogue, employers' and workers' representation.

The profile provides key information for designing and monitoring the DWCP and represent an advocacy tool to mainstream decent work into national development policies.

The compiled decent work indicators will serve as a reliable baseline at the stage of defining decent work targets, and as a powerful instrument for the monitoring and evaluation of the DWCP and national policies.

In September 2008, the ILO convened an international Tripartite Meeting of Experts (TME) on the measurement of decent work, and consequently, adopted a framework of decent work indicators, that was presented to the 18th International Conference of Labour Statisticians (Geneva, December 2008).

The governing body endorsed the proposal to test the framework in a limited number of pilot countries, by developing decent work country profiles.

The project on Monitoring and Assessing Progress on Decent Work (MAP) (2009-2013) with funding from the European Union (EU), works with government agencies, employers' and workers' organisations and research institutions to strengthen the capacity to self-monitor and self-assess progress towards decent work.

The MAP project covers ten countries in the world, including Zambia, and facilitates the identification of decent work indicators that are relevant at the national level.

The projects supports data collection and uses the collected data for an integrated policy analysis of decent work profiles in order to make them relevant for decent work country programmes and national policies.

The project also provides guidelines and manuals on measuring and assessing progress on decent work from the pilot countries' experience.

ZCTU president Leonard Hikaumba said the launch of the decent work country profile offers a new opportunity to evaluate and reflect on individual and organisational roles in moving Zambia closer to achieving the decent work agenda.

Mr Hikaumba, however, said non-compliance to the minimum wage, overtime and decent work hour legislation by employers continued to be a major challenge.

Mr Hikaumba was concerned with practices of casualisation of labour that negatively affected workers'rights to stable and secure employment.

"I would, therefore, like to appeal to institutions tasked with enforcing these laws to prioritise the inspection of all companies suspected of flouting the laws that have been put in place to protect the decent working conditions of employees," Mr Hikaumba said.

ILO country director Martin Clemensson said the findings of the decent work profile would ensure key outcomes such as better employment for the youth, women and people with disabilities were achieved.

Mr Clemensson said labour market policies such as the minimum wage and employment protection legislation were vital ingredients for ensuring that the benefits of development were distributed and workers' rights protected.

The Mineworkers Union of Zambia general secretary Joseph Chewe said the decent work profile is good initiative because it is aimed at improving the work standards of Zambians.

Mr Chewe, however, said Government should ensure strict decent work profile especially in the mining sector where the country was experiencing a lot of job losses.

"We have experienced job loses especially in the mining Industry, most people nowadays are given jobs on contracts which last for six months or one year," he said.

And Federation of Free Trade Unions Zambia secretary general Alison Mando appealed to Government to compel both foreign and local investors to implement the revised minimum wage which came into effect last year.

Zambia Federation of Employers executive director Harrington Chibanda emphasised the need for a free collective bargaining system between workers and employers in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding.

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