….Prolonged drought blamed for 34% unemployment rate
Kunene Region has been revealed as Namibia’s unemployment ‘capital’ in figures that expose a harsh reality behind the country’s failure to create enough jobs. But the rate, which comes amid the country’s poor economic performance has exposes huge differences between the 14 regions. Kunene region leads national unemployment levels with 52.2% and is followed in second place by fellow northern regions Zambezi (48%) and Ohangwena (45.4) in second and third place respectively while national unemployment has increased by 6.1% since 2014, the Namibia Statistics Agency’s Labour Force Survey 2016 has revealed. Speaking at a media briefing on the Labour Force Survey in the capital this week, NSA’s Statistician-General Alex Shimuafeni attributed the rise in unemployment levels to the “prolonged drought” that hit the agriculture sector since 2015. The report further shows that the national unemployment rate stands at 34% which signifies a 6.1% increase from 27.9% in 2014 when the last labour force survey was released. The same survey indicates that unemployment rate among the female population aged 15 and above is 38.3%, which is 8.5% higher than their male counterparts’ rate of 29.8%. Additionally, unemployment is said to be higher in rural areas (39.2%) than in urban areas where the rate is 30.3%.
In addition, during the period under review, the broad unemployment rates among the youths aged 15-35 years is 43.4%, which is a 4.5% increase when compared to the 39% that was reported in 2014. Shimuafeni further pointed out that there was a clear positive relationship between the educational qualifications and unemployment. “The higher the educational attainment rate, the lower the unemployment rate. In this connection, the unemployment rates for people with secondary and junior secondary education are 29.4% and 34.1% respectively, while unemployment rates for people with university qualification and or teacher training education remains relatively low at 6.9% and 1.6% respectively,” he said.
On the front of income levels, the survey showed that the monthly average wage for a Namibian is N$6 757, an increase of N$133 since 2014 when the average wage was N$6 626 per month. In the same way, the highest average wage earned by a Namibian per month is N$19 907. This is mostly earned by individuals in professional, scientific and technical activities sector. Meanwhile, the lowest average salary is N$1 334 per month. The survey collected data on the labour market activities of individuals aged 15 and older who lived in Namibia on the reference night of 30th October 2016. The two week survey commenced on 31 October 2016 and ended on 12 November the same year. On the contrary however, the latest labour survey by the NSA is under scrutiny as to whether it reflects the true unemployment rates in Namibia.
According to Daniel Oherein, NSA’s Manager for Social Statistics, the survey did not encapsulate job losses observed in the construction industry which saw hundreds of Namibians lose jobs in the past 12 months. In the same way, the survey does not reflect the number of jobs that were lost due to the economic slowdown that has hit Namibia hard in the past year. To this end, government put to ice hundreds vacant positions due to unavailability of funds. The main reason for the sharp increase in unemployment rates is the “prolong drought that affected the agricultural sector throughout the length and breadth of the country since 2015”. There is no mention of job losses in construction industry, frozen government vacancies and the lack of new recruitment at both the Namibian Defence Force and Namibian Police in the latest survey.
Seemingly acknowledging that unemployment levels in Namibia could be higher, Oherein said: “The economic slowdown started somewhere in November or December and to be factual it would have not really affected the outcome of the survey. If we now have unemployment high before the slowdown, and if we continue to have vacancies being frozen, [then] definitely there will be more people unemployed.” In June last year, a labour report made a shocking revelation that at least 1 252 employees were retrenched within three months by 76 companies countrywide. The crippled construction industry is begging government to pay close to N$1.8 billion outstanding debt for work already done; one-third of workers have been retrenched and an estimated 60% of construction companies have either seized operations or downsized.