Therefore what the CSO Labour Force Survey tells us is that from a population of 14.4 million less than half of the population (5,845,250) is economically active and of these 610,714 are gainfully employed.
It is worth noting that the majority of Zambians that are in informal employment may be working either full or part-time and most of these workers lack job security, are in precarious living conditions, lack health care, pensions, and good working conditions. They may be in temporary, contract or casual jobs.
Looking at the current structure of the economy, formal jobs are being created slowly. Despite Zambia having posted solid growth and being among the fastest growing economies in sub-Sahara, the jobs situation, including youth unemployment, remains a major challenge. It is exacerbated by challenges of a weak national labour market and persistently high levels of poverty.
It is for these reasons and to reduce poverty that President Michael Sata is in a hurry to create decent jobs.
Sata was sworn in as president on the aspirations of addressing the many social and economic challenges. The lack of jobs for many unemployed Zambians was at the center of his presidential campaign including the need to improving the conditions of service in all the sectors of the economy.
With only 11.3 percent of Zambians in formal employment and 88.7 percent in informal jobs in 2012, according to CSO 2012 preliminary Labour Force Survey Report, it is not surprising that Sata in his 2013 National Assembly address to the nation said government was giving top priority to creating new jobs, particularly among the young people.
The youthful are the most vulnerable to unemployment, with the highest rate recorded among the 20-24 year-olds at 16.3 percent. 52 per cent of Zambians are below 18 years. The country has the largest population of young people ever in its history.
In urban areas, the youth unemployment rate is 15.3 percent compared to 3.1 percent in rural areas.
While Zambia’s total official unemployment rate at 7.9 percent may look marginal, it is worth noting that informal jobs which stands at 88.7 percent, have not benefited the workers as 61 percent of Zambians continue to live below the poverty line, according to the CSO Living Conditions Monitoring Survey.
Poverty has only marginally declined at 2.3 percent, less than half the average rate of recent economic growth which has been robust with a GDP rate of 7 percent in 2013 and has averaged over 5.5 percent over the last decade.
This high poverty ranking is collaborated by the UNDP 2013 Human Development Report which places Zambia 163 out of 187 countries on the human development ranking.
Zambia’s Gini co-efficient, which measures income inequality, worsened from 0.60 in 2006 to 0.65 in 2010. This trend demonstrates that economic growth alone will not address the challenge of persistent income inequality in Zambia.
The government’s general approach to create formal jobs in the private sector has been to provide an enabling environment for business and addressing constraints to its growth.
Macroeconomic policies, investments, works schemes and youth programmes are highlighted by Sata in the national address as means of promoting employment.
Improving the employability of young people through education, technical and vocational skills development, putting in place pro-employment macroeconomic policies, providing finance and venture capital through CEEC and the Youth Development Fund, promoting sectors with strong employment potential and public works schemes, are identified as key to creating quality jobs.
President Sata meets ILO DG
According to a press statement from the press office at State House, President Sata met Guy Ryder the director general of the International Labour Organisation [ILO] and stressed the need for ILO and the Ministry of Labour to work together and develop practical strategies for employment creation for the country.
‘The levels of unemployment have reached alarming levels and there is need for us to collaborate and adopt practical interventions to arrest the situation,’ he said.
Employment Creation prospect
Sata said over 110,000 jobs should be created once the Multi-Facility Economic Zones, technology and industrial park fully operational.
The Pave Zambia 2,000 Project is expected to create over 20,000 jobs for the youth as well as impart them with skills in road paving construction.
2,300 employment opportunities for the youths have been created by the K19.14 million provided in the 2013 budget to support over 700 youth-led enterprises development countrywide.
Local auctioning of gemstones and the promotion of value addition through cutting, polishing and jewelry making in this sub-sector has contributed to employment creation and revenue generation.
Small and medium enterprises can access low interest loans from Development Bank of Zambia provided by government which has availed US$20 million from the Euro Bond.
The implementation of these measures among others, created over 316,000 jobs in the various sectors of the economy Sata said September 20 at parliament.
Speaking on investment inflows November 29, Sata announced that job gains in various sectors had increased.
‘Tourism and arts created 218,344 jobs, services 55,885, electricity, gas and water 28,618, construction 15,091, education 10,099, finance and banking 9,477, community social and personal 4,998, health 3,030, agriculture forestry and fishing 3,153, transport and communication 2,725 and others 3,088.’
‘The total number of jobs created from 2011 to November 2013 is 354,500,’ this figure was up by 38,508 more workers since September 20. This robust gain suggests that the economy continues to grow as employers step up hiring and more people have money to spend to drive the economy.