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Unemployment hits Namibian women the hardest

by Kelvin Chiringa

The latest Labour Force Survey report (2016) by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) shows that female unemployment rate has shot up to 38.3% compared to that of males which stands at 29.8%.

“The gap between female and male unemployment had widened from 7.6% points in 2014 to 8.5% points in 2016,” indicates the survey report. The retail sector having registered a decline in growth by 31,430, it is held that this explains the massive number of many out-of-work women, the majority of whom are absorbed by this sector.

At the same time indications are that rural the unemployment rate continues to overtake that in the urban areas. “Unemployment in rural areas continues to exceed unemployment in urban areas. Unemployment in rural areas amounted to 39.2% compared to 30.3% in urban areas,” observes the report. In total, unemployed people have increased from 274 948 in 2014 to 349,383, while the number of unemployed youth (aged between 15 and 34 years) rose from 204,828 to 246,262, the report indicates.

“The total number of the unemployed increased by 27%, but the number of unemployed youth increased at a slower pace, of 20%. However, youth unemployment rate of 43.4% remains almost ten percentage points above the general unemployment rate of 34.0 percent,” shows the report. The startling rate of joblessness has been attributed to the drought which saw the agriculture sector shedding most jobs than any other sector.

 “We expect the situation on the labour market to stabilise this year, since the agricultural sector is expected to provide more employment opportunities after the good rainfalls,” says the Economic Association of Namibia (EAN). Construction which is currently limping in an industrial recession has also suffered a weakening in jobs although it is said to be painstakingly picking up, at least if observations from FNB are anything to go by.

“The construction sector is expected to reduce the workforce considerably, because of construction projects that have been completed and because of substantial cuts in Government’s capital budget. However, this will most likely not outweigh additional employment created in the agricultural sector,” says EAN. The construction sector employed 6,076 persons more in 2016 compared to 2014, although the construction boom came to an end in 2016. “It can be assumed that the sector reduced already its workforce towards the end of 2016 compared to 2015, but no Labour Force Survey was conducted during 2015,” the report shows.

Executive Director for EAN Klaus Schade holds that “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 programs need to be expanded in order to provide school-leavers with practical skills that are sought after on the labour market.” Schade is further optimistic that “it will be possible to achieve the target of 200,000 additional jobs during the NDP5 period, since we are starting from a low base.”

However, Namibia’s real economy saw an upward surge in employment notably tourism which managed to take 18 575 employees from 47 840 mainly in the accommodation and food service sector. The survey further indicates that manufacturing’s workforce increased substantially by 15,693 to 44,419 while the sector is the sixth largest employer in Namibia.