One of the objectives of vision 2030 is to reduce the unemployment rate under five percent. In regards to finding ways at reducing the unemployment, poverty and under development in the country, a two day Employment Conference titled ‘Towards full and sustainable employment in Namibia’ was hosted in Windhoek.
At the same event second National employment Policy (NEP) was also launched during the conference, following the first employment which was initiated in 1997.
The key note speech was delivered by His Excellence Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba who emphasised on the fact that employment should become the core objectives of all institutions.
“The objectives of the NEP will only be achieved when all role players take ownership and implement it in a structured and coordinated manner. Training of unskilled workers, particularly women and youth, should be included in the implementation,” he said during the opening of the Conference.
He called on all the social partners that they should all be committed to being part of the process of creating a conducive environment for employment creation.
Pohamba further noted that the second launched employment policy will help the country achieve goals towards fighting the challenges of poverty, unemployment and job creation which have been the government preoccupation since Independence.
He however, stressed that the government has since Independence instituted various intervention such as the launch of the first NEP in 1997, the launch of the National Development Plans and industrial policy amongst other.
“Although progress has been done, there is a need of more practical steps to be taken, thus the conference is expected to come up with valuable recommendation to come from the conference towards achieving those goals; and combat unemployment especially amongst youth and women,” he stressed on.
National Employment Policy
The second NEP launched during the conference aims at presenting several strategies to promote employment targets, instruments and mechanisms that should be implemented in the years to come. It is not limited to conventional labour market policies but aims at providing an integrated policy framework which covers macroeconomic and sectoral aspects as institutional aspects.
The first NEP was initiated in 1997 to create adequate job to absorb the annual entrance to the labour market in order to reduce the current high level of unemployment and underemployment; and to promote the protection of the working population.
However, the policy was hampered by the absence of clear implementation strategies subsequently monitoring and evaluation as well reporting mechanisms. Furthermore, there was no clear and defined linkage to the National Development Plans.
The newly launched Policy has ten priorities which include a pro- employment Policies aimed at the creation of 90 000 productive and decent jobs; the second area is of developing an agro industry with sustainable decent jobs creation.
Some of the other areas include that by 2017; at least 60% of Namibians have access to better housing and sanitation while 60% should also be employed in the formal economy while increased jobs are created in the informal economy.
NEP aims that by 2017, Namibia would have shifted towards renewable energy and created opportunities for productive and decent green jobs. The Tourism industry should be diversified to maximise jobs creation and earnings.
There should also be an emphasis on skills development in order to reduce the skill shortage currently experienced in the country.
The other priority areas include the fact by 2017 Namibia should have a dynamic and sustainable social projection system that provides optimal security and promotes employment. There should also be establishment of an effective labour market through public and private services.
As stated in the NEP that was launched during the Conference, the labour force surveys has shown that unemployment rose from 20.2% in 2000 to 37.6% in 2008 using the strict definition (being without work, available for work and actively seeking for work) and 33.8% to 51.2 % using the broad definition (being without work and being available for work) of unemployment.
However, due to change of methodology, the labour force survey 2012 revised the unemployment rate to 27.4% with unemployment rate of women at 22.9% compared 18.9% of men’s. The unemployed youth (19-24) is rated at 42.8%.
Minister of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW) Doreen Sioka stressed that the aim of the conference is of discussing ways and means on how to achieve this objective and find solutions to the problem facing us.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Director Vic van Vuuren stressed that there is a need of an inclusive dialogue in the fight against Unemployment. Thus, he acknowledged the importance of a platform given by this conference in promoting social dialogue.
He however pointed out that the critical part of such conference is the lack of implementation of policies afterwards.
“Unless bold and radical things happen, nothing is going to change in the short term,” he notes.
Unions’ representatives present agreed that an inclusive dialogue and partnership of all role players is prerequisite in the fight against unemployment.
The Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA) deplored the fact that though the government has initiated various interventions to address this issue, not much has progressed, primarily due to the lack of participations of all partners.
“The net in the search of employment must be cast as widely as possible to include the views of a wide variety of players. Every intervention developed should be inclusive of all role players so that all become not only owners of the problem but also owners of the solution,” he said.
On their side, the Namibian Employers Federation (NEF) touched on the existing limitations slowing down the registration of more business, hence holding back the creation of more jobs.
“Employers and trade unions are in agreement that the current labour dispute resolution process is not working. The amount of time and money wasted on protracted and or frivolous claims is a matter of concerns. There are further two areas of concerns in regards of SMEs, namely lack of management skills and understanding of benefits of becoming formal.
Labour Resource and Research Institute (LARRI) Director Hilma Shindondola in her presentation on supporting the ‘Namibian informal economy for sustainable employment’ said that informal business owners might be willing to register if there are benefits to be gained.
“Incentives for voluntary registration could include inter alia, access to free management and technical courses. In addition taxation and registration requirement should be simplified and all bureaucratic procedures in view of accommodating informal economy operators, otherwise they may not see much gain in transiting towards the formal economy.”
She added that many small businesses still operate from a backyard as they cannot find suitable premises or can afford them. She advised on setting up ‘micro finance options for pro-poor growth and support, saving and credit schemes designed for pro poor development and coupled with vocational and informal economic and specific training as a response to the needs of those in the formal economy.
“Working capital coupled with business development and training are meant to enable the growth and formalisation of small businesses.”
Special Advisor to the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Advocate Vicki Toivo pointed out that some of the critical issues include gender discrimination, lack of specific focus on employment and training in economic initiatives including public works as well as the exclusion of disabled people in the labour market.
According to Toivo, some current labour laws do also contribute to unemployment. Those are the basic conditions of unemployment and casualisation of unemployment which allows long term ‘ temporary employment, renewable short term contract, two tier wage system, vestige of labour hire; all these resulting into a permanent cadre of working poor.
“Experience in Namibia and worldwide has demonstrated that poverty alleviation and reduction of inequality are not automatic outcomes of employment creation, just as employment creation is not an automatic outcome of economic growth. The outcomes depend to a large degree on the quality and sustainability of the employment that is created.” She says.
While public works plays an important role in job creation, delegates however advised to ensure that it leads to economic empowerment of workers. It is perceived that the bulk of the money goes to the contractor who creates temporary jobs and no skills transfer. Their programs should benefit women and the youth.
Expanded Public Works program (EPWP): lessons to be learned from South Africa
In order to draw the unemployed, be it women and the youth into permanent jobs, South African director institutional coordination and capacity building department of social development Sidwell Mokgothu shared their experience with the delegates.
He talked of the Expanded Public Works program (EPWP) which was defined as ‘a nation- wide programme to draw significant numbers of unemployed into productive work accompanied by training so that they increase their capacity to earn an income.
“The focus is on the rational for social sector and its design with intention of shedding light and drawing lessons on the experience of the past ten years. It is our hope that these will benefit our Namibians partners as they seek to develop a more appropriate approach for their context, “he said.
The objectives of the EPWP are of: - drawing significant number of the unemployed into productive work to enable them to earn an income within the first five years of the program.
To ensure those participants in the EPWP are able to translate the experience and either enabled to set up their own business/ service or become employed.
To utilise public sector budgets to reduce and alleviate unemployment.
One of the key principles of the EPWP in general and the Social Sector in particular has been that of progressive targeting.
EPWP is focusing on the rural and poverty nodes of society due to the increased immigration from rural to urban areas for jobs; EPWP is focusing on creating jobs in the rural areas.
The other groups focused on by EPWP are the women and youth. Similar to Namibia, research has shown that women and youth constitute the biggest percentage of unemployed, thus EPWP mission is of targeting 55% of women and 40% of youth from different areas.
EPWP is also set in including the people with disability in their program as it is the most marginalised group.
The involvement of social partners such as NGOs, government departments and other public bodies towards employment creation and skills development is an example to be emulated.
Another option of job creation that was emphasised on during the conference is the green economy.
As noted by environmental Investment fund (EIF) Chief Executive Officer Benedict Libanda, the biggest threats to achieving sustainable development in Namibia are those related to environmental challenges.
The environmental challenges are caused either by pollution (water, air, industrial and land pollution) or the effect of climate change.
Green economy concept addresses the challenges of economic development by combining environmental considerations, such as the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, pollution and the adaptation to climate change with people centred solutions.
“A green economy could therefore be defined as one that results in improved human wellbeing, poverty reduction and social equity whilst significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
Therefore, green jobs are placing high premium on effective social life as well as communication between employers and training providers to make sure that green skills are transferred into skills development systems accordingly.
Thus, the creation of program such as EIF is to support the transition to a green economy that is low carbon, resource efficient and resilient development path delivering high impact economic, environmental and social benefits.
In regards to housing, National Housing Entreprise CEO Vinson Hailulu noted that: “The national housing backlog stands at 110 000 housing units, with overwhelming informal settlements present in all urban centres in the country while more than 73% of Namibians do not have access to credit facilities offered by the financial service sector and consequently cannot afford to buy urban land and housing.”
The limited access to affordable serviced land especially in the urban areas and the increased in house prices due to high input costs and limited supply of housing stocks are some of the causes behind the fact that only a small number of Namibian can afford a house.
To remediate that issue, NHE has initiated a housing mass program that is aimed for the construction of 185 000 housing units by the year 2030 underpinned by three objectives which are to provide access to affordable housing to the Namibian people; economic empowerment through ownership of tradable asset that can be used as security for further wealth and asset generation at households level at creating jobs.
The housing project with a total investment of N$ 45b is expected to create over 20 000 jobs; it is aimed at upgrading over 50 000 households in the informal settlement amongst many more objectives aligned towards Vision 2030.
Some of the recommendations made at the conference emphasised mostly on the enhancement of social dialogue system between all players and ask the MLSW to facilitate regular consultations with all stakeholders.
It was proposed that in order that a regular monitoring and evaluation system is put in place in order to check the process of implementations of all recommendations as well as the objectives of the NEP.
Sports activities were used as a practical example of an activity that could be incentivised as a way of creating extra employment through the sports as well as inculcate discipline into the youth. Thus, requested that municipalities to avail sport facilities.
The ministry of Youth, National Services and Sport further proposed that there should be a scheme which avails capital to the graduate youth with technical background for them to form a company instead of endlessly looking for jobs.
They further proposed an extension of social security benefits to the informal sector, although it was argued that such option needs to be specifically interrogated as to what type of social benefits to extend.
MLSW permanent secretary George Simataa closed the sessions noting that most recommendations are similar to the NEP objectives and that all as social partners should continue consultation with the committee in charge of the NEP implementation to check the progress. PF