By Alois Vinga
TRADE unions have vehemently disputed recent findings by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) survey which established that the country’s unemployment rate is currently at 20% saying such figures do not resonate with the realities on the ground.
Presenting the 2021 Fourth Quarter Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) Monday, Zimstat director general, Taguma Mahonde said the document is imperative in informing key stakeholders on the actual state of the labour market.
“QLFS has an advantage of providing high frequency labour force data for evidence-based decision making in respect of the labour market situation obtaining in the economy. The survey conforms well to the country needs of quarterly GDP as it provides up to date labour statistics for its compilation,” he said.
Mahonde noted that headline findings of the latest QLFS established that the country’s unemployment rate, using the strict definition, was estimated at 20%.
The report estimates that the total number of employed persons is at 3 million with the expanded unemployment rate standing at 47%.
The share of formal (non-agriculture) sector employment was estimated at 30% while the share of employment in the informal (non-agriculture) sector was estimated at 46%
“The share of employment in the household sector was estimated at 4% and the share of employment in the agriculture sector was estimated at 20%,” he said.
However, Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) secretary general, Kenias Shamuyarira criticised the statistics, saying they are way out of touch with the reality on the ground.
He said the definition of formal employment must relate to stable income, continual and fringe benefits that are derived from that employment contract to include NSSA, National Aids Council deductions, pensions and insurance health schemes.
“Now if you look at the definitions being given by Zimstats, they include every Tom and Jack who is even in the survivalist mode of selling beer tomatoes etc,” Shamuyarira said.
“That is not formal employment, to us as organized labour, the actual figure of organized employment is hovering between 70% to 80% not the established 20% which has since been exceeded by events,” he said.
Shamuyarira questioned the rationale behind the Zimstat finding at a time when the formal sector had totally closed, saying before the current decline, the country’s employment rates were at around 96%.
“We need to be very clear that as a country we can’t ensure that all those that are vending, cross border trading are formalised. No. That’s not it. These are survival tactics which are endured by a nation with a defunct industry and below capacity utilisation. The finding that we are at 20% is just wrong, absurd and awkward,” he said.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general, Japhet Moyo blamed definitional issues around the idea of employment.
“The debate on who is employed and who is unemployed was closed long back by the international definition that is accepted. The majority of people that are on the informal economy, women and men in street corners selling airtime, sweets, water, those are the statistics Zimstat is using to come to the conclusion that 20% are unemployed. Actually before covid-19 we had a time when unemployment was around 13%,” he said.