Unemployment is one of the most serious problems facing Zambia today. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) of 2008 reviewed that unemployment stands at 15.9 percent. This data needs to be updated to reflect the current true picture of the problem. However, the numerous youth roaming about in the streets, offices and everywhere looking for employment shows the desperation for employment.
The desperation for employment lead to nine people, including a nine months old baby, who were crushed to death, while six others sustained serious injuries during a stampede in Mpulungu at Great Lakes Products (GLP) after word went round that the proprietor Sahran Salim was in town to employ casuals workers. This happened in May of 2012.
For the purpose of this paper it is good to define some terminologies which will be used in further discussions. The term “Unemployment” is defined as a situation where anyone of working age is not able to get a job but would like to be in full time employment.
On the other hand the term “Employment” is attributed to an individual who works part-time or full-time under a contract, whether oral or written, express or implied, and has recognized rights and duties.
Another terminology used on this subject is “Underemployment” which is the condition whereby people in a labor force are employed at less than full-time or regular jobs or at jobs inadequate with respect to their training or economic needs. The flip side of underemployment is “Voluntary unemployment”, this occurs when the unemployed choose not to take the employment offered because it is a wrong job or benefits are too high or other such reasons. Such people are still counted as unemployed because they are still seeking a job (they just don’t want to take one they are offered).
We also have to classify people working in the informal sector such as home businesses, street vending, cross-border trading, agriculture, and many other such businesses. Such people cannot be counted among the employed but they are simply occupied. On the other side of this we have the un-occupied who are literally doing nothing and not actively looking for jobs.
It must be mentioned that unemployment crisis is not unique to Zambia but rather it is a global issue.
Unemployment arises from factors beyond the control of the individual worker. Unemployment may be due to seasonal layoffs for instance in agricultural jobs, technological changes in industry (particularly by increased automation), racial discrimination, lack of adequate skills by the worker, or fluctuations in the economy.
The target group which deserves special mention consists of young people and women, who constitute the bulk of the unemployed in Zambia. For instance, according to reports, about 73 per cent of Zambians between 18 and 35 are unemployed. There is also an increase in unemployment among university graduates in the country. This is due to several reasons including changes in societal goals and aspirations. Increased education is encouraged by changes in government policy, such as the introduction of such laudable programmes as free, universal primary schooling which is among the millennium development goals (MDGS), which results in an increase in secondary school enrollments. This in turn leads to a proliferation of universities. While the aim is to accommodate as many qualified students as possible there is often inadequate planning for the future employment of graduates. This could perhaps explain why urban areas have higher rates of unemployment than rural areas as most of these graduates opt to stay in the cities rather than return to their indigenous areas.
Hence unemployment as a problem has hindered the country’s development economically, socially, psychologically, politically and culturally. Economically, unemployment has led to an increase in poverty levels in the country. According to a Survey research, during the 2006 to 2010 period, it was reviewed that poverty levels stood around 62%. Common knowledge still indicates that poverty levels in Zambia are still high especially in rural and peri-urban areas. Youth and women seem to be the most affected.
Street vending is also one effect of unemployment. This is because people from rural areas tend to migrate to urban areas in order to make a living from trading various commodities to consumers. In as much as this helps them economically, the benefits are very minimal as the earnings they acquire are not enough to sustain their needs.
To make matters worse, relevant authorities seem to be overwhelmed by the problem that they have lost control on street vending.
At a social level, prolonged unemployment usually results in some form of social pathology, as reflected by an increased crime rate and violent agitators. It breeds discontent against the state, and any slight provocative issue or incident may trigger violent demonstrations and social unrest, which may result in loss of life and damage to property, if the situation is not handled properly by the authorities.
The destruction of family life and is another social consequence of unemployment. Unemployment reduces the social status and self-esteem of an individual. It causes scarcity of money for household maintenance and other essentials of life, including payment of the children’s school fees. This usually results in constant family feuds and friction, with the wife demanding money for food and housekeeping, which the unemployed husband cannot provide. Nagging and incessant quarrels ensue, and sometimes also wife battering, when the unemployed husband vents his frustration on the defenceless wife. This may result in a divorce if the situation does not improve, leading to a broken home and its dire future consequences for the children.
Research dating back to the Great Depression found that men who experienced substantial financial loss became more irritable, tense, and explosive. This can therefore be witnessed in the country’s continuous rise in Gender based violence (GBV) cases. Children also often suffer as these fathers become more punitive and arbitrary in their parenting. This can be seen in Zambia today where cases of child defilement have continued to rise with almost each week recording such cases.
Unemployment may even impact decisions about marriage and divorce. Unemployed or poor men are less likely to marry and more likely to divorce than men who are employed or who are more economically secure. Here again this can be observed from the high divorce rates that have characterised the country. According to reports, the increase in divorce rates can be linked to GBV which is in some cases a result of unemployment as earlier alluded to.
In an attempt to escape from the hopelessness of the situation, the unemployed may indulge in excessive consumption of alcohol, usually the cheap local brew with its potential health repercussions; especially for the liver but also for physical health in general. The stake may eventually be raised to include drug abuse, and in order to sustain the habit, the unemployed may engage in petty crime such as pick pocketing, stealing or, in the case of females, prostitution.
Psychologically unemployment has Individual and family consequences. This is because job losses are associated with elevated rates of mental and physical health problems, increase in mortality rates, and detrimental changes in family relationships and in the psychological well-being of spouses and children. Compared to stably employed workers, those who have lost their jobs have significantly poorer mental health, lower life satisfaction, less marital or family satisfaction, and poorer subjective physical health. Additionally studies by psychologists have shown that unemployment is associated with depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, low subjective well-being, and poor self-esteem. Therefore unemployed workers were twice as likely as their employed counterparts to experience psychological problems.
Unemployment can also contribute to reduced life expectancy. For instance according to a development review in 2005, Zambia has one of the lowest life expectancy rates as maternal mortality, infant mortality and crude death rate have worsened. Although Zambia has had no war, it is sadly in the same category with other war ton countries such as Sudan and Somalia and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the country’s life expectancy has dropped from 52 years in 1980 to 43 in 2013. This has led to a reduction in man power necessary to foster development in the country.
Elevated depressive symptomatology has also been found among unemployed single mothers, and mothers who are more depressed as they more frequently punish their adolescent children. This is evident in the number of cases reported in the country where single mothers have either killed or dumped their young ones in latrines. Frequently punished adolescent children, in turn, experienced increased distress and increased depressive symptoms of their own.
Unemployment also culturally affects Communities. This is because the impact of unemployment extends beyond individuals and families to communities and neighbourhoods. High unemployment and poverty go hand in hand, and the characteristics of poor neighbourhoods amplify the impact of unemployment (Wilson, 1996). Inadequate and low-quality housing, underfunded schools, few recreational activities, restricted access to services and public transportation, limited opportunities for employment all characteristics of poor neighbourhoods contribute to the social, economic, and political exclusion of individuals and communities, making it more difficult for people to return to work. In a six country study, increased risk of mortality was associated with higher neighbourhood unemployment rates. Unemployed workers also report less neighbourhood belonging than their employed counterparts, a finding with implications for neighbourhood safety and community well-being.
Politically youths are used in political violence. The unemployment get into politics not because they have the desire to serve people, but because they want to find an income. This brings are poor fiscal discipline, corruption and generally poor policies
The Zambian Voice recognises the urgency and significance of finding a workable solution to unemployment, therefore, a project dabbled “Matrix of Creating Employment in Zambia”. The project is being undertaken in phases. The first phase was to found out what has been done, through a literature review, in the quest to answer the problem of unemployment.
The literature review has been done and it will be shared with a number of stakeholders in preparation for the next phase. The next phase will be done based on the feedback from the literature review from stakeholders.