Malawi Government plans to send 320 young Malawians to South Korea in a highly revealing labour export agreement. According to President Joyce Banda, the move will create jobs for the jobless.
Despite the absence of a national labour identification system and comprehensive surveys enumerating jobs on offer, the country’s ailing economy is inundated with unemployment, especially among the youth.
According to Malawi’s Minister of Youth and Sports Enock Chihana, 80 percent of the country’s secondary school leavers are unemployed. These join thousands who graduate from both public and private colleges annually.
Last year, a study by Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) estimated that the employment rate is only 85 percent—that is including farmers and businesspeople.
The findings further show the rate has increased in the past four years while the number of new jobs has slipped from 20 000 to slightly above 7 000—a vindicatiion of the headline of Weekend Nation of December last year: The Ugly Faces of Government Reforms.
Published in December last year, the article details how prevailing economic policies failed to create jobs between April and November 2012. Following the introduction of such reforms as the devaluation and floatation of the kwacha as well as the automatic fuel pricing system, reports of retrenchment became widespread and government seemed to have no idea how to close the gap.
With the uncertainty re-emerging, an opinion is gaining ground that not even sending people to South Korea and the nationwide food-for-work initiative will bridge the gap—for they focus on a small population of non-skilled labour.
According to historian Professor Wiseman Chijere Chirwa, the Malawi-Korea connection is no solution to job creation because it has numerous shortfalls that deny the country expected benefits.
Recently, he told The Nation that to start exporting semi-skilled and skilled labour on competitive terms, Malawi needs to develop its own human resource that matches the demands of the modern economies.
Similarly, Civil Service Trade Unions (MCTU) president Eliah Kamphinda believes Malawi’s “erratic economy” has a long way to go because production is minimal.
“In terms of production, we often talk about agriculture which is no longer dependable. Unless we come up with strategies to produce more, then job creation will remain a problem, “says Kamphinda.
He also blames high vacancy rate in public offices, saying there are over 500 vacancies in the civil service which if filled could reduce the demand for jobs. This calls for sound recruitment systems.
According to the trade unionist, there is also need for monitoring mechanisms to curb private firms that exploit small workforces to make huge profits that sometimes go undeclared.
“Our private sector has grown big over the years, but you will observe that they have a small team doing a lot of work. They need to increase their labour force in relation to the workload and their profits,” says Kamphinda.
In the same vein, Industrial Relations Court deputy chairperson Jack Nriva says the country needs well-focused policies focussing on the future job demand and how local skills can contribute to national development through a well-structured employment system.
“We need to work tirelessly on improving our economy and open channels that create more entrepreneurial enterprises. We need a conducive environment that supports entrepreneurship investments. If this happens, more jobs will be created and the demand for jobs would fall,” says Nriva.
This year, the International Labour Office reported that investments in Malawi are faced with many challenges, including lack of access to financial services; unsound and unstable macroeconomic policy; poor legal and regulatory environment; as well as lack of an entrepreneurial culture, education, training and life-long learning.
In January, an International Finance Corporation (IFC) assessment in the private sector exposed more obstacles to job creation—weak investment, climate change, inadequate infrastructure, limited access to finance and insufficient skills.
This is worrisome as projections show that unemployment rate will continue growing, with world predictions indicating that unemployment rate will sky-rocket by 2020.
Kamphinda says it is not too late for Malawi, calling on government to look at opportunities, review its policies and increase production.
Malawi has a lot of opportunities for investments and the private sector has the potential to employ many people. As Nriva argues, there is need for government to come up with policies that lessen the pains of investing in a country to attract more players.