SADC labour ministers call for regional policy on employment creation

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Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek –The ministers responsible for employment, labour and social partners in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have agreed to enact a regional job creation policy, as a guide for member states to address unemployment both at a national and regional level.

The ministers met in Windhoek on Thursday to discuss the progress made towards the implementation of employment and social protection as well as to discuss ways on how to implement employment creation strategies and fostering social dialogue at the regional level.

During the meeting, Namibia’s Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, Erkki Nghimtina, said although there has been coordination among SADC member states in addressing unemployment in the region, the region has failed to achieve policy coherence on employment creation across the multilateral system. 

Nghimtina said the fact that each government and different role players subscribed to different theories as to what spurs economic growth, has made it difficult for the region to agree on what is really required to create employment, especially for youth.

“Some of them do not target employment creation as an explicit or conscious goal in planning, programming and budgeting. Some countries argue that employment will be best created through foreign investment, while others will assert that creating and capacitating local enterprises through domestic investment and government support will be more effective,” he said.

Nghimtina, therefore, proposed a regional policy with a people-centred approach that would guide SADC member states on how to unlock the solution to unemployment and to enhance productivity.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) 2011 statistics, employment levels and labour productivity in the SADC region are generally low.  Three out of four workers were considered to be in vulnerable employment. Also, youth and women are the most affected by unemployment and underemployment. The youth unemployment rate in Sub-Saharan Africa was at 11.5 % in 2011.

The trend is directly linked to social and human development challenges. Gender inequality, HIV and AIDS, a lack of social protection and vulnerable employment all affect employment and labour progress.  

ILO’s Deputy Director General Greg Vines has acknowledged the work of the SADC employment and labour sector in advancing the decent work agenda in the sub-region.

Vines said with a combined GDP of overUS$600 billion, SADC is one of the most promising developing regions in the world, in terms of its economic potential.

However, ILO said inadequate access to productive and decent employment opportunities for a majority of people, in particular women and youth who are trapped in the informal economy where decent work deficits abound remains.

Vines said there is a need to address concerns about the inclusivity and local content of economic growth, be it with regard to employment creation and skills development for local communities, but also, importantly, with regard to respect for labour rights and practices, that are in line with the principles of decent work.

“This indicates that the challenges ahead, with their close links to financing, trade and investment flows, are not just relating to achieving statistical ‘full employment’, but also ensuring that such employment is productive and decent,” he said.

Vines said policymakers and social partners needed to come up with an innovative approach as per commitments made under the Ouaga +10 framework, Agenda 2063, Agenda 2030 and the several SADC initiatives to enhance coherence and harmonised action on employment and productivity across monetary, fiscal, trade, investment, labour market and social policies.

He further reaffirmed ILO’s committed to supporting member states on taking in projects, which offer the promise of major employment opportunities, productivity improvements, and social and economic development for the future.

Vies highlighted that there is a need to make increased investments in people and their capabilities; institutions; and jobs of the future harnessing the private sector’s productive capacities, resources and potential.

“And above all, we need to ensure a human-centred approach to all of our policy. development and implementation,” he said.

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