Most Zimbabweans in the country are underemployed following the collapse of the formal economy, which was triggered by years of massive de-industrialisation, an economist said on Thursday.
This comes at a time when the country’s poorly-paid civil servants have declared a nationwide strike next Wednesday over the government’s unfulfilled promises.
Addressing Bulawayo journalists during a media engagement seminar on an alternative macroeconomic framework for Zimbabwe, an economist with the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), Prosper Chitambara, said
Zimbabwe’s problem was not necessarily unemployment but underemployment.
Underemployment refers to the condition in which people in a labour force are employed at less than full-time or regular jobs or at jobs inadequate with respect to their training or economic needs.
Unemployment, on the other hand, refers to people who do not have jobs at all or who are not doing anything that gives them an income.
“The biggest labour challenge in Zimbabwe is not unemployment but underemployment,” said Chitambara.
He explained that owing to the informal economy, which has phenomenally grown, airtime and vegetable vendors are considered employed but what they earn renders them underemployed.
“That is why ZimStats’ unemployment figures stand at 11 percent,” said Chitambara.
“People who sell tomatoes and (airtime) juice card cards, are considered employed.”
He said deindustrialisation led to the development of the informal economy in Zimbabwe, which he said was the third-largest in the world.
Chitambara said it was high time the government devoted its energies in creating more jobs in the formal economy.
He said countries that have developed in the world have put more resources in social services such as the health sector.
Chitambara cited the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries which they allocate US$ 8,000 per person per year in the health sector.
He said it was regrettable that Zimbabwe only allocated ZW$41 per person in the sector this year.
“A country must have financial autonomy,” said Chitambara.
“To rely on donors to finance your own development is not sustainable.”