Namibia’s Unemployment Rate Heavily Exaggerated

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Enumerators overlook over 60,000 ‘households’

Some nurses, police, military not counted

By Elvis Mboya

WHILE Namibia’s official unemployment rate is 51.2 percent, new estimates put it at a much lower 37.6 percent.

For the first time information has emerged indicating that over 60,000 people living in nurses homes and doctors’ quarters; military barracks and prisons staff quarters were completely left out during the Namibia Labour Survey of 2008, a Windhoek Observer investigation has revealed.

Thousands of civil servants live in such State accommodation establishments.

A closer scrutiny of the Namibia Labour Survey of 2008 also shows that the survey also classified youth below the age of 18 – mostly thousands of school dropouts – as unemployed.

Minister of Education Dr Abraham Iyambo recently described this is age group in parliament as, “children who shouldn’t work, but should be in school”.

The survey indicates that more than 83 percent of youth in the age group 15 to 19 years of age are unemployed.

Some experts say that if the survey failed to classify thousands of civil servants as employed, while classifying thousands of under-age children as unemployed, the 51.2 percent unemployment rate might be a statistical exaggeration.

When approached for comment the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare’s Chief Statistician, Sikanda Tonycent, admitted that the ministry did not include large numbers of civil servants when it compiled the Namibia Labour Force Survey 2008.

“It’s true that the statistics are purely households. We don’t go to [residences] at barracks or hospitals,” he said.

However, it is a known fact that both the public and private sectors employ thousands of medical personnel.

Government’s annual recruitment of military and police officers is also quite considerable.

People in those professions belong to the middle-income bracket of the labour force groups, and it therefore seems strange to ignore their contribution to the national economy.

According to the 2010/11 national budget, the employers of these excluded populations groups remain some of the biggest beneficiaries of taxpayer’s money.

The Defence Ministry received N$3,014 billion, the third largest share of the N$28.8 billion 2010-11 budget, followed by the N$2.59 billion of Health and Social Services and the Ministry of Safety and Security at N$1.89 billion.

The unemployment rate measures the proportion of the unemployed persons in the labour force.

However, economists use two different definitions of unemployment, either ‘broad’ or ‘strict’.

The broad measure of unemployment regards all those without jobs, who are available for work but either looked or did not look for work. It includes all the unemployed, whether they made any effort to look for work or not.

The strict measure of unemployment considers those without jobs, who are available for work and are actively looking for work.

According to the Report of Analysis by the Namibia Labour Force Survey 2008, the current rate of unemployment is 51.2 percent “when the broad measure of unemployment is applied”, but “lowers to 37.6 percent when strict measure of employment is applied”.

The same report shows that the survey includes people aged as young as 15, but not engaged in economic activity among ‘unemployed’ Namibians.

It is interesting to note that the National Planning Commission has not carried out any survey of these institutional populations for 10 years [since 2001].

The Windhoek Observer unsuccessfully tried to obtain up-to-date statistics on the institutional population from the office of the Director of Statistics at the National Planning Commission.

According to the Population and Housing Census, the institutional population numbered about 57,000 in 2001.

This number must have increased significantly over the past 10 years considering the drive to employ ex-combatants as well as the recruitment of large numbers of cadets into the police and the military.

The Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Immanuel Ngatjizeko signed off on the Namibia Labour Force Survey 2008 report in September 2009.

When the report was leaked to the media almost a year ago it sparked a highly charged and alarmist public debate, which continues to reverberate across every conceivable platform in the nation to this day.

The country greeted the unemployment statistics with an unprecedented level of public outrage, proving the persuasive power of numbers.

The staggering unemployment statistics contained in the report at one point prompted Minister Trade and Industry Dr. Hage Geingob to invoke the old quote “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”, attributed to 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

The predictable response was of course to search for a scapegoat, and as often happens around the world people were quick to point the finger at foreign nationals employed in the country.

Everybody took up the chorus “foreigners are taking away jobs from Namibians”, a typical jingoistic kneejerk response with strong emotive political undertones.

According to the survey, 58.4 percent of women in Namibia are unemployed, while over 40 percent of men are jobless.

More than 60 percent of Namibians between the ages of 15 to 34 cannot find work. In the age group for 15 and 19 years, more than 83 per cent are unemployed.

More than 67 percent of Namibians between 20 and 24 years are stranded without employment.

For those between the ages of 25 to 29, more than 53 percent are jobless, while 46 percent of people between 30 and 34 years share the same predicament.

For Namibians who are 50 years and older, the unemployment rate is 35 percent.

The Omusati region has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 78.6 percent, followed by the Ohangwena region with 76.4 percent.

The report further stated that unemployment in the other regions stands at 70 percent in the Kavango Region; Oshikoto (68,6 %), Caprivi (65,6 %), Kunene (50,4 %), Oshana (48,8 %), Omaheke (48,2 %), Otjozondjupa (43,8 %), Hardap (38,6 %), Khomas (33,5 %), and Erongo (32,6 %).

That is not all; nearly 65 percent of those living in rural areas are jobless while more than 36 percent in towns are without work.

The survey shows that more than 72 percent of jobless people have remained unemployed for two years or more.

According to the Namibia Labour Force Survey 2008, the strict unemployment rate in the country has climbed steadily since 2000 when it stood at 20.2 percent.

In 2004, it reached 21.9 percent, only to spiral to 29.4 percent in 2008. The annual national population growth is estimated at 2.7%. / Windhoek Observer

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