Rwanda: Trade Unions Urge Govt to Invest More in Job Creation

During the budget presentation of the Ministry of Trade and Industry in parliament, it was heard that the National Employment Programme that operates under the ministry has a one-billion financing gap.

After the hearing, Member of Parliament expressed their doubts on the possibility of achieving the annual 214,000 job creation target.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has severely affected the labour market in numerous ways.

Since March 14, when the first Covid-19 case was recorded in Rwanda, movements were halted, businesses were closed and jobs lost.

Although it is statistically uncertain how the unemployment rates were affected, experts' observations indicate that strategic action will be required to revive the labour force in Rwanda.

The New Times spoke to Africain Biranoneye, Secretary-General of Rwanda Worker's Trade Union Confederation and Dominique Bicamumpaka, Advisor at COTRAF, a Kigali based trade union.

Both Biraboneye and Bicamumpaka agree on the fact that the government in partnership with the private sector will need to invest heavily in creating more jobs and reviving halted businesses after the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Not only did the pandemic terminate many jobs, but also made job security fragile for workers. When the pandemic ends, we will need more new jobs and support for individuals who cannot revive their businesses," Biraboneye said.

He added that, apart from financial support, the labour sector needs consultation services to guide and provide advice for workers.

"Employees face challenges from either employers or personal work issues. A professional consultation fund to help them would come as a solution."

For Bicamunpaka, as far as the unemployment issue is concerned, Rwanda needs a supporting fund to revive lost jobs and businesses.

Gap in labour laws

Covid-19 pandemic has only made the gap in labour law worse, says Bicamumpaka. The fact that the minimum wage has not been settled yet, and some laws are not as facilitating makes some Covid-19 impacts on labour severe, he said.

"For instance, the law stipulates that if the job stops for over three months, contacts are terminated but can be renewed if the job resumed before six months. If this applies to teachers whose jobs stopped since March, by September, hundreds of jobs would be lost," he explained.

Bicamumpaka suggests that to confront unemployment issues that will automatically come as an effect of the pandemic, the government should prioritize the unfinished projects in the labour law to facilitate employees.

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