Many graduates are failing to find jobs due to a growing mismatch between their training and the job skills required by employers in the country, says government. Employers have often remarked that in Namibia “we do not have a job crisis but a skills crisis”. The government database indicates that there are over 64 911 job seekers, a situation according to Minister of Labor, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation Erkki Nghimtima, largely attributable “to the fact that there appears not to be some interactions between institutions of Higher Learning and other training institutions with the labour market.” Nghimtina believes the lack of interaction is the reason why some institutions’ academic programmes are preserved as supply driven. Nghimtina acknowledged that unemployment not only affects the unskilled and those who have no formal qualifications, but tertiary institution graduates do also struggle to find jobs. “This is a mismatch between qualifications produced by tertiary institutions and labour market needs as they should be. This results in graduates being unable to find jobs or create jobs for themselves. The other problem is the fact that the labour market is simply not able to absorb all jobseekers because it does not expand at a pace that is commensurate with the growing working population,” he said. He said the Ministry would like to liaise with credible training providers in order to encourage them to give priority consideration to skills development, especially vocational skills which will make young people employable in the labour market as well as the recognition of prior practical and appropriate skills.
“On top of that, the Ministry has a database system that registers jobseekers thereby making it possible for them to be connected with the registered vacancies that match their qualification or training.” With the country’s economy teetering on the brink, Nghimtina said it[economy] is not in a position to create the desired number of employment opportunities. Once a leading economy in SADC, Namibia’s once-promising economy growth rate shrank from 5% in 2015 to 0.2% in 2016. “That is a bit of a challenge. However it is also true that not every economic growth translates itself in job growth,” he noted. Despite being given an additional responsibility of employment creation in 2015, the minister said that does not mean it would create jobs for the jobless. “It simply means the Ministry has to coordinate and promote employment creation efforts by all sectors of the economy that are aimed at creating job opportunities for the unemployed. The Ministry has started solicited ideas from all the regions across the country on how best as a country could embark upon projects that seek to utilize natural resources within Regions in order to create jobs and take people off the streets. Some of these ideas are now translated into concrete Project Proposals accompanied by cost estimates for funding,” he explained.
Poor quality graduates
In an interview earlier this month, The Executive Director of National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) Mocks Shivute said there is no “scientific” proof to justify the claims that state-owned institutions produce poor quality graduates as per the claims in certain sectors in society. “There is no scientific proof to that effect, at times it is just perception, people who believe that whoever is trained beyond the Namibian borders is better qualified than locally trained. But also, it depends in which fields students have studied. First of all there are not enough job placement, if you have 10 000 graduates a year, you don’t expect all of them get employment the same year,” said Shivute at the time. Shivute said the presence of Namibian graduates in different sectors of the economy is proof enough that the country’s top institutions, the Namibia University of Science (NUST) and Technology and the University of Namibia (UNAM) produce quality and market absorbable graduates. “There are many graduates from our own universities, if you look at the professors at Unam and NUST, they are graduates of those institutions,” charged Shivute. Shivute however acknowledged that in some cases, graduates do lack the necessary skills to make them employable but attributed that to “lack of internship opportunities”.
On trade unions
Trade unions continue to emerge in Namibia, with the most active ones in recent years being those involved in the fishing, mining and education sectors. Although the relationship between government and the unions seems hostile during negotiations at times, Nghimtina believes unions are a core part of a functional democracy. “Government values the principle of tripartism whereby the Ministry, trade unions and employers work together in ensuring that there are sound labour relations and that industrial disputes are addressed through genuine negotiations,” he said.
He added: Organized labour, that is trade unions, do have an important role to play in the maintenance of harmonious industrial relations. They are a constitutional creation hence indispensable in a functional democracy like Namibia. They might appear a nuisance to the uninformed but they remain very critical to the sincere and mindful employers and to the State itself.” Regarding the increase number of unions, Nghimtina said “the Labour Act makes provision for freedom of association. Workers therefore have the constitutional right to organize themselves as long as they are doing so within the parameters of the law. Therefore, the number is not a factor in the eyes if the law.”
Calls for strict implementation of the country’s labour laws continue to resonate as employers flout laws aimed at protecting workers, and although there is a general consensus that foreign employers are more prone to break these laws, Nghimtina states otherwise. “All employers whether local or foreign are all prone to break the law in one way or the other. All laws, the Labour Act, Social Security Act, Affirmative Action (Employment) Act and Employment Service Act are violated by role players in the labour sector. To clear the matter, there is no single law that is immune from violation otherwise there are no police and courts in the country,” he warned.