9 January 2014

Zimbabwe's Ailing Economy Fuelling Child Labour

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Innocent Makwiramiti, a Harare-based economist and former chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), said retrenched employees often lose numerous benefits besides their salaries.

"In most cases, when they are retrenched, breadwinners would have [already] gone for long periods without receiving their salaries, [they] can no longer access medical aid and, in some cases, they forgo school fees allowances they would have been getting," he said.

"While companies have been struggling over the years, even under the Government of National Unity (formed in early 2009 and dissolved in August 2013), it seems an unusual number have been folding since last year's elections."

Makwiramiti said many other companies are struggling to pay employees their full salaries, while public service employees often receive such poor salaries that they rely on their children to supplement the household income, and even top managers who have fallen on hard times are doing the same.

Kurai Chipamaunga, 37, a single mother with two children, who is also responsible for her late sister's three children, worked as a senior accounts clerk for a bank in Harare until it closed in 2013.

"When the bank was placed under liquidation, most employees did not get anything ... all of a sudden, I have no source of income," she told IRIN. During the Christmas period banks faced a liquidity crisis and placed severe restrictions on cash withdrawals.

"I had no choice but to make two of my sister's children go to work," she said. They go door-to-door selling cell phone chargers and batteries, snacks and cutlery that Chipamaunga bought for resale with the little money she had when the bank closed. Her own children, aged seven and four, are too young to earn money.

Chipamaunga has started a small garment-making project, but fears she will struggle to raise enough money for the children's school fees and uniforms this year. "All the money I saved is trapped in the bank," she said.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

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InFocus

Zimbabwe's Ailing Economy Fuels Child Labour

Boys working (file photo).

The decline of the manufacturing sector in the past decade has forced families to send their children out to work to supplement household incomes, experts say. Read more »