Tuesday, October 19, 2021

National Employment: Could numbers be lying?

The contribution by the controversial labour intensive public works program ÔÇô Ipelegeng, to the national employment has been pinned at 6.2 percent.

In it’s 2015/16 Multi topic Household Survey, the national statistics agency Statistics Botswana indicated that of the 808,002 economically active population, 690, 901 were employed with atleast 6.2 percent of those engaged in Ipelegeng.

Ipelegeng is a labour intensive public works program centred mainly on projects that are financed by public funds. The program was set up by outgoing President Ian Khama in 2008 with the intention of absorbing poor able-bodied adults without work opportunities into temporary and rotational employment in urban and rural settlements.

Despite calls to have Ipelegeng employment figures dropped off the formal employment surveys, Statistics Botswana continue to include it in its labour sector assessments.

The statistics agency argues that its inclusion is within the defined parameters of employment of the International Labour Organization (ILO). According to the ILO, employment is described as the engagement of a person over a period exceeding seven days, which could justifies the agency’s inclusion of Ipelegeng under the formal sector.

Meanwhile Statistics Botswana further stated that the private sector was the largest employer with 44.6 percent of employees, followed by Public Administration, Private Households and Subsistence Farming with 22.1, 12.2 and 9.9 percent, respectively.

On unemployment, the agency says the rates were estimated at 17.7 percent for population aged 15 years and above, and 17.6 percent for population aged 18 years and above by 2015/16.

“Unemployed persons were those individuals who did not do any work in the past seven days during the survey period, and were in the ages 15 years and above. These are persons who did not work for payment in cash or in kind and or were not in self employment for profit or family gain”, reads part the Statistics Botswana executive summary of the 2015/16 survey.

Breaking the data further, Statistician General Anna Majelantle noted that majority (34%) of those who were unemployed were Junior Certificate (JC) holders followed by secondary school certificate holders with 22.4 percent whilst unemployment among university degree holders was estimated at 11.4 percent.

UNEMPLOYED OR UNEMPLOYABLE GRADUATES?

While the major problem over the years has been high rates of unemployment, it has also emerged that Botswana is also faced with a daunting challenge of limited skilled workers. Over the past few years, government, the private sector and other stakeholders have been spending sleepless nights trying to find ways of amassing a pool of skilled workers who can match the demands of industry. At the moment, the country depends on migrant workers to fill the skills gaps in some professions.

Local business people have also complained that the country does not have adequate skilled manpower. Skilled workers are imported from southern African countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and some as far as Kenya, Nigeria and other economic powerhouses of Africa. Observers say as new mining projects come on stream, the expansion of coal and gas at Morupule and Mmamabula power stations and underground mining develops, new skills will be required.

This leaves the local labour market facing a huge challenge of growing levels of a mismatch between labour supply and demand. With thousands of students graduating from both local and international Universities and Colleges every academic year, the continued lack of skilled workers therefore raises the question whether Botswana’s graduates are unemployed because there is a shortage of jobs or because they are unemployable.

The 2013 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) indicated that the greatest challenges that Botswana faces are shortage of specific or technical skills (79 percent), lack of appropriate work experience (77 percent) and lack of required qualifications (71 percent). However, the trend is not unique to Botswana as businesses around the world are also reporting a skills shortage epidemic that is weighing down on growth prospects.

South Africa faces the same challenges to a large extent: when it comes to shortage of specific or technical skills, South Africa stands at 83 percent, lack of appropriate work experience at 66 percent and lack of required qualifications at 63 percent. Both South Africa and Botswana’s percentage in terms of the mentioned challenges are higher than the recorded global average. Other significant factors that are worth noting are shortage of employability skills, poor motivation or attitude among applicants as well as lack of recruitment expertise. The IBR shows that almost four in ten (39 percent) businesses around the world are struggling to recruit the right people, with a lack of technical skills cited as the primary problem (64 percent). The concern is that a lack of talent will dampen business productivity, ultimately threatening future growth and profitability.

 

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