Maputo — Mozambique's main trade union federation, the OTM (Organisation of Mozambican Workers), has estimated the country's unemployment rate at 23.2 per cent.
This figure is published in an OTM research report on “The Current Dynamic of the Labour Market and the Challenges facing the Trade Union Movement in Mozambique”.
It is, however, very difficult to estimate unemployment in an economy that is dominated by subsistence agriculture, and by the informal sector. Since there is no unemployment benefit in Mozambique, most of those who are classified as “unemployed” are certainly working at something.
Unemployment is increasing, the report claims, because the labour market is unable to absorb the hundreds of thousands of young people who try to enter the market every year. Furthermore, labour recruitment is not transparent, because of the widespread use of relatives and friends to find young people jobs. The report says this practice “prejudices quality and competitiveness”.
The report found that 47.3 per cent of those classified as unemployed did once have formal sector jobs, but lost them when their contracts terminated. The OTM alleges that companies are opting for short term contracts rather than definitively hiring workers onto their staff.
Worst affected by the unemployment situation are young people seeking their first job. Unable to find a formal sector job, they are driven into the free-for-all of the informal sector, which becomes the survival mechanism for poor households, with “a high level of perception of social and economic exclusion”.
The informal sector is dominated by youths and women, usually with low levels of education, without any professional qualifications, and often burdened by responsibility for large families.
Despite the huge difficulties in estimating the size of the informal sector, the report claims that it absorbs 39.5 per cent of the work force, and operates as “the immediate alternative for the problems of lack of employment in the formal sector”.
The private formal sector employs 32.7 per cent of the workforce, and the public sector accounts for 23 per cent. NGOs, associations and the like account for 4.5 per cent of employment.
This takes little or no account of the Mozambican peasantry. The data are based on a survey of 271 people who are said to “represent” 500,000 workers. This is clearly an urban sample, and thus the unemployment discussed is an urban phenomenon.
To improve the employment situation, the report says that trade unions should put pressure on the government to draw up and implement a national labour policy. This policy should seek to remove the main barriers facing young Mozambicans chasing their first job - these include employers' demands that recruits should already have many years of experience, or that they should speak English, for example. Other barriers that should be tackled include corruption and nepotism.