A million jobs lost in bloodbath

Unemployed Zimbabwean graduates stage a kick-about in central Harare to protest high levels of joblessness in the country in July 2016

ZIMBABWE lost over 1 million jobs over the last four years, according to official statistics which contradict the ruling ZANU-PF party’s employment creation claims.

The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency’s (Zimstat) 2017 inter-censal demographic survey shows that the country’s economically active population declined to 5 611 809 last year, from 7 065 311 in 2014.

The latest survey was carried out in August 2017.

“The economically active population refers to the total number of persons available for the production of goods and services as realised in national income statistics,” Zimstat says.

“This includes paid employees, employers, unpaid family workers, own account workers (both agriculture and others) and those unemployed. On the other hand, homemaking, studying and being sick or too old are examples of activities of the economically inactive population.”

Farm work

The number of jobs, broadly measured by Zimstat’s model which includes own-account workers in agriculture and various other informal trades, decreased to 5 240 565 in 2017, from 6 265 869 in 2014, a decline of 1 025 304 jobs.

Out of those who are considered employed, 52 percent are engaged in agriculture-related occupations, while paid workers account for 23 percent of the employed. The number of Zimbabweans in paid employment also declined to 1 282 489 in 2017, from 1 531 633 recorded in 2014.

The latest official data puts the unemployment figure at 6.6 percent, down from 11.3 percent. Independent analysts estimate that only up to 10 percent of employable Zimbabweans are in formal work.

2 million jobs

In its 2018 election manifesto, ZANU-PF, which promised to create 2.2 million jobs in five years ahead of the last vote, claims to have exceeded the target.

“In the 2013 People’s Election Manifesto, ZANU-PF promised to create 2.2 million jobs. Over the past five years, 4.5 million have been gainfully employed in new jobs in both the informal and formal sectors, with agriculture, mining and manufacturing contributing over 80 percent,” the ruling party asserts.

The official data shows that the ranks of homemakers – stay-at-home persons who manage an estimated 3.2 million households nationwide for no pay – grew exponentially between 2014 and 2017.

Spike in homemakers

In 2014, Zimstat recorded 125 649 homemakers, but the figure jumped to 1 071 944 in 2017. The total economically inactive population expanded from 684 122 in 2014 to 2 460 369 last year, reflecting the sluggish performance of the economy.

The numbers provide a sobering insight into the extent of the economic malaise which Zimbabwe’s next government, to emerge from the July 30 general election, will have to fix.

ZANU-PF heads into its first election without Robert Mugabe at its helm. This comes after the party, aided by the military, forced its aged leader to step down last November, replacing him with his long-time acolyte, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The country’s opposition is also going into its first election without its foremost proponent for the past two decades, Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in February after a battle with cancer.

Nelson Chamisa (40), who emerged as Tsvangirai’s successor after a bitter internal battle in the MDC-T party, will be Mnangagwa’s main challenger in the presidential election.

Chamisa heads a coalition of seven parties, which have come under the MDC Alliance banner.

Election issue

Employment creation is a central issue in the election, following the haemorrhage of formal jobs in an economy that shrunk by half in a horror decade up to 2008. The crisis is largely blamed on Mugabe’s policies, such as the oft-violent seizure of white-owned farms to resettle blacks and empowerment laws that scared away investment.

Mnangagwa (75), accused by his critics of complicity in Mugabe’s ruinous four-decade rule, has vowed to turn the economy around through re-engaging western governments and international financiers as well as opening the country for investment.

The Chamisa-led opposition coalition is running on its flag bearer’s youth as well as the record of Tendai Biti, his senior coalition ally who was finance minister between 2009 and 2013 under a power-sharing government.

Biti is credited with maintaining fiscal stability as Zimbabwe’s fragile economy emerged from what remains the worst phase of hyperinflation of the twenty-first century.

Mnangagwa has promised a clean election, in an attempt to break away from polls marred by violence and allegation of rigging under Mugabe’s rule. The new president has also opened the door to western poll observers, including from the United States, Britain and the European Union, who have been barred since 2000 when Zimbabwe’s ties with the west degenerated.