Fewer than 190 000 formally employed

Employment statistics show that the government has failed to deliver the decent jobs that people want, the Institute for Public Policy Research says.

21 January 2020 | Economics

Namibia had just under 190 000 formally employed people in the private sector by 2018.

This is according to a new Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) report that says this exceedingly small number in an economy of 2.4 million people suggests that the government has failed to deliver the decent jobs that people so desire.

The Namibia Quarterly Economic Review for October to December 2019 says as Namibia approaches the 30th anniversary of its independence, policymakers and the public should be aware of what official statistics say about the country's record in generating employment for its growing population since this has been one of Namibia's principal development objectives.

“It is hard to see substantial and sustained reductions in poverty and inequality coming about without equally substantial and sustained increases in employment,” it states.

According to the report, Namibia's population has grown from approximately 1.4 million people in 1991 (which excluded Walvis Bay which had not yet been returned to Namibia) to an estimated 2.4 million people in 2018. The labour force (the economically active population) has grown from 479 779 people in 1991 to an estimated 1.09 million people in 2018. “In other words, whereas the population has increased by over 71%, the economically active population has grown by 127%. Interestingly, the strict rate of unemployment (excluding discouraged workers) in 2018 was almost the same as in 1991 at 19.8% compared to 19.1%.”

The report says that the broad rate of unemployment (including discouraged workers) in 2018 was almost the same as in the first year the figure was calculated in 1997 - at 33.4% compared to 34.5%.

However, the report says that there were some surprising differences in sectoral employment from year to year, which cannot be explained by developments in the economy.

“For example, it is hard to understand how employment in manufacturing rose from 28 409 in 2012 to 45 057 in 2018.”

It pointed out that the five largest sectors by employment in 2018 were agriculture, forestry and fishing, accommodation and food service, wholesale and retail trade, private households and education.

These figures suggest employment grew from 630 092 in 2012 to 725 741 in 2018, a rise of some 95 649.

The report however says by subtracting the number of informally employed people by sector from the total number of employed people by sector, a clearer idea can be gained of the amount of formal employment the economy has created. “Unfortunately, this additional information has only been included since 2013.”

According to the report the overall picture therefore suggests that the number of formally employed people declined from 365 703 in 2013 to 307 067 in 2018. “If government employment of 86 864 people is excluded (adding together those in public administration and defence, compulsory social security, education and human health and social work activities) in 2018, the number of formally employed drops to 220 203.”

The report says that if state-owned enterprises and parastatal employment of 30 654 is excluded, it looks like just 189 549 people are formally employed outside the government and parastatal sector. “This is an exceedingly small number of people in an economy of 2.4 million people and suggests government has dramatically failed to deliver the decent jobs that people so desire.”

ELLANIE SMIT

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