Windhoek — The Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) yesterday launched the 2012 Labour Force Survey (LFS), which indicates that Namibia's broadly defined unemployment rate is 27.4 percent, while the narrowly defined unemployment rate is 16.7 percent.
However, Statistician General, Dr John Steytler, warned these figures should not be seen as indicating declines when compared to the previous labour force survey since the methodology employed is not 100 percent comparable. Yesterday's survey results also differed from those of the Namibia Population and Housing Census of 2011, which recorded a higher unemployment rate of 37 percent. Steytler explained that the differences in the estimates could be attributed to the detailed coverage of labour force variables in the survey compared to the census.
While the census of 2011 had only one question, which was used to determine the employment status, the 2012 LFS had nine questions. "The obvious differences can be observed in the number of employed persons in the categories of unpaid family workers and own-account workers. The survey recorded a higher number of 37 879 and 68 906 persons respectively for unpaid family workers and own-account workers. On the other hand, the census recorded 10 075 and 17 163 respectively for the same categories," read a summary report of the survey.
According to the NSA, the broadly defined unemployment rate is explained as incorporating all persons within the economically active population or working age group who are without work, but are available for work, irrespective of whether or not they are actively seeking employment. Narrowly defined unemployment is described as all persons within the economically active population or working age group who are without work, are available for work and are actively seeking employment. "While the broadly defined unemployment rate may be seen as more moderate compared to previous estimates, it hides discrepancies between rural and urban areas, across regions, across gender and more especially across age groups," cautioned Steytler during the launch of the survey.
Steytler added that the unemployment rate among the youthful segments of the population remains alarmingly high at 56 percent for the age category 15 to 19 years and 49 percent for the age category 20 to 24 years. In contrast, the unemployment rate for the population in the age category 50 to 54 years is only 13 percent while on average, females are more likely to be unemployed than males, and people in urban areas more likely to be unemployed than people in rural areas.
According to the 2012 survey, which was the fifth post-independence labour survey and was conducted in close collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the region with the highest unemployment rate is Ohangwena with an unemployment rate of 34.6 percent, while the Karas Region with an unemployment rate of 23.9 percent has the lowest unemployment rate.
"As in the past there is a clear positive relationship between educational attainment and the unemployment rate. The higher the educational attainment rate, the lower the unemployment rate. In this connection, the unemployment rate for people with no secondary education is estimated at 29.7 percent, while the unemployment rate for people with tertiary education is less than 10 percent," he said. The 2012 Labour Force Survey also revealed that the majority of the labour force is employed in the subsistence agriculture sector that employs about 99 000 people, representing a share of 15.8 percent of all employed Namibians.
In terms of income levels, the most lucrative jobs were found in the transport and communication sector where more than 53 percent earn more than N$8 000 per month, followed by the mining sector with 51 percent and education with 50 percent. The lowest paid workers were found to be in private households where less than 0.5 percent earn more than N$8 000 per month and in agriculture where less than 2 percent earn more than N$8 000 per month. "The survey represents yet another milestone in the statistical system of the Republic of Namibia as it has been conducted under the strictest international standards and codes of data collection and analysis, while taking into account Namibian specificities," said the Statistician General.
However, he stressed that the results of the latest LFS are not fully comparable with previous labour force surveys, since there were significant changes in methodology, including sample design, questionnaire design, training of trainers and enumerators, as well as general coverage of the population. But, as a result of the improvements in data collection, the results launched yesterday present the most accurate data and labour force information and constitute the official situation about employment and unemployment in Namibia. He cautioned the public not to attribute movements in labour force indicators from previous periods to specific policy interventions during the review period, because the methodologies employed between previous surveys and the current survey are not consistent.
"The NSA will, however, henceforth maintain the same methodology for comparability purposes going forward and also to assist policy makers in assessing the effectiveness of policy making," said Steytler. Some of the key methodological changes that the NSA introduced in the 2012 LFS included an increase of the sample size compared to the previous LFSs. In total 9 108 households were interviewed compared to 5 975 during the previous labour force survey, representing an increase of about 65 percent. In addition, the number of sampling units was increased from 239 during the previous labour force survey to 506 during the 2012 survey, enabling the NSA to have a wider and more diverse coverage of the Namibian population.
According to Steytler, the increases in the sample size and number of primary sampling units were necessitated by the fact that the previous surveys had a high sampling error, and as a result of this 'intervention' the sampling error has been reduced to within acceptable limits.
Also, the number of questions to determine whether a person is employed or not was drastically increased from two in the previous labour force survey to nine in this latest survey. Other measures introduced to improve the quality of the 2012 LFS included intensive piloting of the questionnaire prior to the actual survey; improved training manuals and more time spent on training of trainers, as well as the training of enumerators. "The amount of time spent on training more than doubled compared to previous similar exercises and the scope of the LFS also increased in the sense that modules on the informal sector and domestic workers were included, while more attention was also paid to subsistence workers in the agricultural sector," concluded Steytler.
The head of the NSA also drew attention to the fact that the results of the LFS do not say anything about the quality of work, or what is also referred to as 'decent working conditions of the labour force in Namibia'.