Sunday, October 17, 2021

Mabeo’s ministry should establish a “Jobs” statistics unit

So many names have been given to the new President of BotswanaÔÇô Mokgweetsi Masisi. Amongst them, the catchiest one is the one that suggest that his ascendency to the highest office will result in the much needed jobs created.

The “Jobs President” himself has said it in his inaugural speech that he intends to tackle joblessness in the country which is prevalent amongst the youth. The youth of this country make up to 60 percent of the total population according to various official statistics.

While there is so much expectation from the “Jobs President”, to date we have not yet heard how he intends to go about fighting this monster. We remain hopeful though that his, was not a cheap talk – that unlike his predecessor, he will channel money towards ensuring that thousands of graduates who roam the streets get sustainable jobs.

While we wait to hear from the “Jobs President” and handlers, we have one suggestion to make. President Masisi and his cabinet needs to ensure that there is accurate and up to date data on labour market. This include getting basic information such as how many people are actively looking for jobs, how many have given up and most importantly how many jobs have been lost during a given period of time. In other words, we need timely statistics on both jobs created and those lost.

Statistics Botswana ÔÇô a government agency tasked with gathering data and disseminating information on a wide range of issues include the labour market seems to have a lot in its plate. It is expected to carry amongst other things surveys on other sectors such as Agriculture, Trade and Tourism.

This is why in most cases, when they finally dish out any employment or jobs related information, such data is obsolete. We cannot rely on outdated data if we are to win against this monster called unemployment. We need instant data that will help us make rightful decisions on where to channel the little resources that we have as a nation.

That is why we make this suggestion that perhaps as part of its mandate, the Ministry of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development should consider establishing a statistical unit that will be responsible for gathering data on employment, job creation and job losses.

It is also important to note that when the government is looking at improving its statistical coverage and capture job data better, it needs to widen the scope of survey to also capture salaries and wages at which jobs are being created. This would be part of the mandate for the statistical unit under Minister Tshenolo Mabeo’s ministry.

The kind of data and the frequency at which it will be gathered will give us a better picture of the kind of jobs being created or lost if any. This is what we see happening in other countries. In many parts of the world, governments are grappling with a vexing puzzle ÔÇô job creation. We are equally grappling with the same here. The difference between us and them is the approach precisely on how we gather data that is meant for decision making.

In the US, for example, while unemployment is showing a downward trend in recent times, economists estimate that real wage growth has not improved for many years. One estimate by Brookings said that wages in 2017 in the US were only 10 per cent higher than they were in 1973, with an annual real wage growth of barely 0.2 per cent.

In Botswana, despite the measures introduced by the government through the minimum wage regulations, signs are that real growth in wages ÔÇô both in formal and informal sectors has been fairly low. There is no estimate of how wage growth has been in both rural and urban areas, and whether high end jobs are being created or low end ones. This is the task that could be undertaken by the statistics unit that should be created within Mabeo’s ministry.

One thing for sure, the number of jobs being created by the domestic economy growing at its current rate is still far lower than the number of people joining the workforce every year.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently came up with an alarming finding that the country’s demographic dividend is not turning out to be a dividend at all, because we simply cannot create enough jobs or grow fast enough to employ the people coming into the job market.

So the #Bottomline is that we need to speed up the process of creating sustainable jobs and that process start with gathering accurate data. That will serve as an indicator of whether we are progressing or regressing.

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