While Africa’s economic outlook remains favourable despite the persisting recession in developing countries, delegates of a Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC) seminar held in Gaborone this week have been told that secure jobs are becoming rare.
Making a presentation on precarious work and labour brokering in Southern Africa, Dr. Godfrey Kanyenze, the Director of the Labour and Development Institute in Harare, Zimbabwe said that globally, agency work, contract work and temporary work (which all fall under what is called “precarious work”) were replacing regular work. Precarious work is frequently associated with part-time employment, self-employment, fixed-term work, temporary work, on-call work, home workers, and telecommuting.
“There has been a dramatic increase in precarious work as a result of such factors as globalisation, the shift from the manufacturing sector to the service sector, and the spread of information technology. The economic crisis had a major impact worldwide on the level of employment as well as its quality,” Kanyenze said.
According to the International Labour Organisation’s annual report on “Global Employment Trends 2010” the share of workers in vulnerable employment worldwide may have increased by more than 100 million in 2009, causing a spike in global poverty. In 2012, 1.49 billion workers in developing countries ÔÇô 56 percent of all workers in the developing world ÔÇô were in vulnerable employment, an increase of more than 9 million from 2011. The number of vulnerable workers grew in most developing regions, including Sub-Saharan Africa. Kanyenze said that the persistence of a large share of vulnerable workers in the developing world represents a threat to growth prospects, as it holds back consumption and limits growth in aggregate demand.
“These changes created a new economy demanding flexibility in the workplace, resulting in the decline of the standard employment relationship and a dramatic increase in precarious work,” he added.
This situation is a result of globalisation and the spread of information technology that have created a new economy that emphasises flexibility in the marketplace and in employment relationships. Kanyenze explained that these influences have resulted in the increase of women in the workplace as well as the rise in precarious work.
Paradoxically and against this background, Africa’s growth performance continues to be very strong. Between 1996 and 2010, Africa’s average annual GDP growth amounted to about 5 percent and per capita GDP increased year by year by an average of 2.5 percent. By 2010, Africa’s per capita income exceeded its 1995 level by 46 percent. From 2002 to 2011, Africa’s annual average real GDP growth amounted to 5.3 percent, double the 1990s level.
“The catching up of African economies is widespread, save for a few countries,” Kanyenze said.
On the downside, he stated that the continent was held back by adverse external shocks, notably the global recession in 2009, and political events such as the “Arab Spring” in 2011. He further noted that while growth continues to be positive and resilient, productive transformation challenges persist. Citing manufacturing as an example, Kanyenze said that this sector played a role in only a few countries, that in Africa generally, it is relatively small with an average contribution of only about 10 percent to GDP and yet, the potential to develop labour-intensive manufacturing (especially in sub-sectors with linkages to agriculture and extractive industries) remains largely unused.
The continent’s economic growth was 4.2 percent in 2012 and is projected to accelerate to 4.5 percent in 2013 and further to 5.2 percent in 2014.