Botswana’s rate of job creation during 2020 was as slow as its COVID 19 vaccine roll out plan, figures published by the national data agency – Statistics Botswana suggest.
According to the Statistics Botswana’s Labour Force Module of the Quarterly Multi Topic Survey (QMTS), formal sector employment in Botswana went down from 492,914 in quarter one of 2020 to 477,716 in the last quarter (Q4: 2020). This reflects a decrease of 3.1 percent. The survey further shows that there has been an increase in the number of people eligible to work, but the economy is adding jobs at a slower pace. The data shows that unemployment rate for persons aged 15 years and above went up by 1.3 percentage points, from 23.2 percent in quarter one of 2020, to 24.5 percent in quarter four 2020. The data also shows that the employed population (15 years and above) recorded a decline of 2.4 percent between quarters one (1) and four (4) of 2020, from 751,798 to 733,875 persons. This was accompanied by an increase of 5.4 percent of unemployed persons, from 226,598 to 238,731 persons over the period.
The lack of jobs in Botswana has become a major issue, and without clear data, there is growing concern that the number of unemployed people might be understated. At the same time, jobs seekers are expected to stay on the side-lines of the labour market following pronouncement by the country’s Finance Minister – Dr Thapelo Matsheka that the Botswana government – one of the biggest employers in the country has taken a decision to freeze vacant posts.
“Government will abolish 50 percent of vacant positions, in value, as of 1st April, 2021”, Matsheka said.
Already the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) has been tasked with reviewing the size of the public service.
According to Matsheka, during the 2020/21 Financial Year, DPSM is expected to recommend measures to rightsize the civil service as part of over-arching public sector reforms.
On the private sector size, early indications are that many companies will also reduce their workforce following financial impacts felt due to closure of business sponsored by COVID 19 pandemic.
The hospitality industry, which is the most hit by COVID 19 has already sent early warnings relating to the financial stress caused by the deadly disease.
The Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana HATAB Chief Executive – Lily Rakorong recently told Sunday Standard that a combination of the 2020 national lockdowns, the recent night curfews, alcohol sales ban and a downturn in customer confidence has hit the country’s hospitality industry with some companies expected to shut down their doors soon.
Rakorong said the decision by the government to suspend the outsourcing of conference and workshops venues and the temporary ban of official trips for government officials since the beginning of the year has had a negative impact on the hospitality industry.
“What further complicates the situation is the fact that even the casual travellers appetite has gone down due to the ban on liquor. They know they cannot dine and wine during a weekend getaway given the liquor sales ban”, Rakorong said.
HATAB estimates that at the moment, most hotels and other accommodation resorts sits at an occupancy rate of three percent.
“Some restaurants have informed us that they now do not have other option but to implement the no-work, no-pay policy on some of their staff members”.
Still on the private sector side, big employers like brewery company – Kgalagadi Brewery Limited have already given hints on jobs cut. The beer company has already shut its operations following a ban on sales of liquor that the Botswana government effected in early January 2021.