Govt’s job agency powerless

According to the ministry of labour, industrial relations and employment creation 4 560 workers were retrenched last year.

30 April 2019 | Economics

This is a clear indication that the economy is unable to absorb the high number of jobseekers. – Erkki Nghimtina, Minister of labour, industrial relations and employment creation.

Jo-Maré Duddy – Government’s employment bureau could only successfully place 711 or 8% of the 8 613 jobseekers who were registered with the Namibia Integrated Employment Information System (NIEIS) in 2018/19.

This is considerable lower than the 3 116 jobseekers or 20% that were placed in 2017/18.

Motivating the budget of nearly N$190 million which was allocated to labour, industrial relations and employment creation in 2019/20, minister Erkki Nghimtina last week told parliament “there are hundreds of employees recruited daily, but not reported to the ministry for accurate statistics”.

There is currently no legal requirement that oblige employers to report any vacancies to the NIEIS, Nghimtina said.

Yesterday morning, 236 employment opportunities were listed on the NIEIS web page. More than 71 400 résumés were available.

“The public placement rate remains very low compared to that of the previous years. This is a clear indication that the economy is unable to absorb the high number of jobseekers,” Nghimtina said.

In 2018, there were 401 970 employees in the country, according to the latest labour force survey conducted by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA). This is 75 588 or nearly 16% less than 2016 when the previous survey was done.

According to Nghimtina, the NIEIS will be upgraded and strengthened to support the public employment services this year. The government of South Korea, through the International Labour Organisation (ILO), will provide technical assistance.

The vote under which the NIEIS falls received nearly N$26.1 million in 2019/20.

‘Redesigned and remodelled’

Nghimtina told the National Assembly that “if the economy cannot grow and cannot create the necessary job opportunities, then it should be redesigned and remodelled”.

The ministry believes “new decent” jobs can be created in sectors like fishing, timber harvesting, charcoal production, repairing and maintaining state infrastructure, debushing, food production and garment manufacturing.

Commenting on the size of civil service, with a wage bill of just under N$30 billion in 2019/20, Nghimtina said: “It is not by accident or mistake that a developing state like ours has a big public sector. It is a developmental reality, but yet a necessary socio-political source of economic stability, a force behind a purchasing power, particularly for the small and medium enterprises.”

Namibians need to “reflect on the narrative soberly rather than taking a leaf from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund books without having an alternative to the negative effects thereto”, Nghimtina said. The IMF has repeatedly urged government to contain the size of the civil service and its wage bill.

Inspections and complaints

A total of 1 016 workplaces were inspected in the past fiscal year. Of these, 75% complied with the labour law, Nghimtina said.

Furthermore, 786 workplaces were inspected for health and safety and only 16% complied fully with international standards. “The rest were found to be either at an average or at total non-compliance,” he said.

“Occupational safety and health at workplaces are not well nurtured in Namibia,” according to Nghimtina.

A total of 3 522 labour complaints were received, while 3 969 labour disputes were referred for conciliation and arbitration.

Including cases from the previous year, the ministry handled 4 976 cases: 1 836 cases were resolved at conciliation stage, while 250 were resolved at arbitration phase, Nghimtina said.

“With great concern, 4 560 employees have lost their jobs through retrenchments due to economic reasons, and mainly from the construction sector,” he said.

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