Namibia: Many Jobs May Be Gone Forever... As Retrenchments Mount Amid Pandemic

7 August 2020

The increasing number of reported retrenchments all over the country as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic are but the tip the iceberg. However, the situation is forcing Namibia to reinvent its economy.

This is according to local labour expert Herbert Jauch, who warned that many of the jobs lost due to the pandemic are gone forever.

International labour experts have also cautioned that only about 50% of retrenched employees around the world will eventually get their jobs back, thereby exacerbating an already-unmanageable economic crisis.

The latest figures from the ministry of labour indicate that Namibia witnessed massive collective retrenchments between April and June this year when more than 5 700 employees were retrenched by close to 390 employers.

Of these employees, some 1 816 were retrenched due to Covid-19 related reasons, while more than 3 900 were retrenched for other reasons.

The labour ministry's figures confirm that the Khomas region recorded a higher number of retrenched employees at 2 838, followed by Erongo with 1 309, while Omaheke and Omusati recorded the least of three and five, respectively.

"Among all the regions, only Kavango West was spared from retrenchment during this quarter. In addition, the ministry had to deal with 405 unfair dismissals, of which 13 were Covid-19-related. It is important to highlight that the Covid-19 state of emergency resulted in some serious operational challenges, whereby the Ministry recorded a backlog of about 588 cases throughout the country," read the ministry's report.

However, during an exclusive interview with New Era, Jauch emphasised that 60% of Namibians are employed in the informal sector and these jobs losses are not tallied in the ministry's report.

"Some industries, such as aviation, travel and tourism, will never recover. This means we are forced to rethink our economies, as sectors tied to globalisation have been the hardest hit," said Jauch.

He, therefore, suggested new priority areas for the domestic economy that could include greater self-sufficiency in terms of food production and processing, creating value chains within the country that would guarantee long-term employment and the use of natural resources, such as invader bush, to be harvested and processed within the country.

"There was talk of shipping our invader bush to Germany, where they would convert it into electricity, but this makes no sense at all if Namibia is a net importer of power," said Jauch.

He added the exportation of raw materials should be done away with, calling the practice a colonialist mentality of shipping raw materials to the 'industrialised world' for processing.

Meanwhile, the labour ministry stated that between April and end of June, more than 2 000 jobseekers were registered into the employment database.

"The ministry received 1 446 vacancy notifications for referral purposes and 2 936 jobseekers were referred for possible employment placements. The ministry, however, only managed to place a number of 33 jobseekers for employment in various employment establishments," reads the report.

The ministry's statistics show that the 25 to 29 age category recorded a higher number of job seekers (572), followed by 30 to 34-year-olds (453) and the 35 to 39-year-olds category had 305 jobseekers registered.

In order to mitigate the high unemployment rate, the ministry started the process of reviewing the National Employment Policy, which is anticipated to yield positive outcomes.

As usual, the ministry conducted Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) inspections at various workplaces - and during April to end of June, it conducted 503 OSH inspections, of which 112 were regular OSH inspections, while 391 were Covid-19 specific inspections targeting the sectors that are considered as high-risk sectors.

These inspections covered a combined total of 9 908 employees.

"It is imperative to indicate that, of the inspected workplaces, 86 (16%) were found to be in good compliance with OSH standards and Covid-19 regulations, while 34% and 49% were recorded as average and poor, respectively. The medical and pharmaceutical sector recorded the highest good compliance rate with 45%, followed by the retail sector, which recorded a 38% good compliance rate," the report stated.

The agriculture sector recorded the highest rate of poor compliance with 66% of inspected farms.

- ebrandt@nepc.com.na

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