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Labour market expected to stabilise

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07 Jul 2017

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JOB losses are expected to slow down by the end of this year and employment is expected to improve into next year, said Klaus Schade, director of the Economic Association of Namibia (EAN), at a Namibia Statistics Agency event yesterday. He said employment in the agricultural sector is expected to grow after this year's good rains.

Schade's comments followed an NSA presentation on the 2016 labour force survey at a Windhoek restaurant yesterday.

After steady increases over recent years, the report indicates that overall employment dropped markedly in 2016 by 32 000 people to 676 885. The 2016 unemployment rate captured by the NSA was 34%, although since the statistics for the 2016 labour force survey have been gathered and released, the employment landscape appears to have deteriorated quite significantly.

According to the NSA, the agricultural sector shed most workers in 2016, “which can be attributed to severe droughts in 2015 and 2016”.

Schade said the construction sector is also expected to reduce the workforce considerably because of construction projects which have been completed, and because of substantial cuts in government's capital budget. This is despite the fact that NSA statistics show that the construction sector employed 6 076 people more in 2016 than in 2014.

“It can be assumed that the sector already reduced its workforce towards the end of 2016, compared to 2015, but no Labour Force Survey was conducted during 2015,” he explained.

The NSA said during a question and answer session yesterday that they just collected information and reported what was on the ground after a participant questioned how the agency data shows an increase in construction employment, while the industry has reported large job losses due to the prevailing economic conditions.

In May 2017, the Construction Industries Federation (CIF) of Namibia said 63% of businesses have either closed down, are dormant, or have scaled back operations drastically. The federation estimates that between 1 September 2016 and 31 March 2017, about 30% of the workforce was retrenched.

The CIF said the situation was likely to get worse, “unless government finds a way to intervene”.

“If by the end of June 2017 no new tenders are being awarded, 67,39% of the responding businesses will have closed down, will be dormant, or scale down drastically, and close to 40% of all employees in the sector would have lost their jobs.”

But Schade said this will most likely not outweigh additional employment created in the agricultural sector.

“In order to reduce youth unemployment, more efforts are needed to provide apprenticeships, internships, and job attachments that will help the youth to enter the labour market. Likewise, vocational training programmes need to be expanded in order to provide school-leavers with practical skills which are sought-after in the labour market,” said Schade.

He said since the country was starting from a low base, it would be possible to achieve the target of 200 000 additional jobs during the fifth National Development Plan (NDP5) period.

Yesterday's event was also about the NSA launching its new mobile application.

A mobile app is a software application developed specifically for use on small, wireless computing devices, such as smartphones and tablets, rather than on desktop or laptop computers.

Nelson Ashipala, the NSA spokesperson, officially launched and demonstrated the mobile app.

The application allows access to data without being connected to the internet.

“As soon as you download it, you can switch off your data and access it, even when you are in the village,” he said.

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