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Over two-thirds of SADC unemployed

Lack of education, a low skills base, declining gross domestic product (GDP) and ongoing regional conflicts have left only about one in 10 people in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region employed, according to a recent international report.

The report, ‘Labour Markets in Southern Africa’, by the Oslo-based Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science, said: “This gives an unemployment rate of nearly 80 percent in the SADC countries, excluding Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Seychelles. It would be even higher if these countries were included.”

According to researcher Liv Torres only 20 percent of the region’s economically active population are employed, with only 40 percent of these in formal employment. Torres added that those employed outside of the formal sector were either “unemployed or struggling to find a means of survival in the informal sector of subsistence farming.”

Recent estimates put the figure of the economically active population in the 14 member SADC states at 50.7 million, but of these only 11.1 million are formally employed. According to SADC, the region has a population of about 180 million people.

SADC statistics indicate that an estimated 30 percent of the
region’s population live in “abject poverty”, with about 30-40 percent of the entire labour force completely unemployed or were “living out of subsistence agriculture which [was] prone to adverse weather such as drought and floods.”

Agriculture is the largest employer as well as being the most important contributor to GDP. An estimated 70-75 percent of employment is in agriculture. In 1997 the region registered a growth rate of just 2 percent, compared with 4 percent in 1996.

One regional economist told IRIN that one of the main challenges facing SADC is that it has not been able to create “enough adequate” employment so as to keep pace with a growing population and an expanding labour force. She added that this labour force was still relatively unskilled, which meant attracting more labour intensive investment to the region.

“This is naturally more expensive, and the economic trend of large multinationals is to move away from labour intensive ventures to more high-tech operations,” she added.

“The conflict in the DRC, the ongoing war in Angola and the recent trouble in Lesotho has not helped to strengthen investor confidence either,” she said. But she added that the opening up and restructuring of the region’s economies was giving investors “some hope”.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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