Surge in Employment Sparks Optimism in Zimbabwe’s Labour Market

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HARARE – A wave of optimism is sweeping across Zimbabwe’s labour market as new data reveals a significant rise in employment figures for the first quarter of 2024, according to the Business Weekly.

The latest report from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) shows that the number of employed individuals increased by 116,650, bringing the total to 3.29 million from 3.17 million in the previous quarter.

Despite the loss of 101,352 jobs during the same period, the economy managed to create over 200,000 new jobs, marking a notable milestone. This represents the first quarter-on-quarter increase in employment since the economic challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The employment-to-population ratio (EPR) improved by 1.5 percentage points, rising to 38.2 percent from 36.7 percent in the last quarter. This growth indicates better labour market conditions as more Zimbabweans within the working-age population secure employment opportunities.

The total labour force, including individuals aged 16 and above, expanded to 4.14 million from 4 million, reflecting a 3.5 percent increase. This is further supported by the rise in the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), which climbed from 46.3 percent to 48 percent, indicating that nearly half of the working-age population is now engaged in the labour market through employment or active job seeking.

The employment structure showed mixed results across various sectors. Formal (non-agriculture) employment saw a growth of 1.4 percent, reaching 988,586 individuals, accounting for 30 percent of the total employed population. This growth underscores a gradual shift towards more stable and regulated job sectors, providing better job security and benefits for workers.

Conversely, informal employment declined by 2.4 percent to 1.36 million people, though it still constitutes 41.3 percent of total employment. This decline may indicate a transition of workers from informal to formal sectors, reflecting improved economic conditions and potentially better enforcement of labour regulations.

The agriculture sector remains a critical component of Zimbabwe’s employment landscape, employing 752,844 individuals, which accounts for 22.9 percent of the country’s total employment. This sector plays a vital role in providing livelihoods for a large portion of the population, especially in rural areas.

The national unemployment rate for individuals aged 16 and above slightly decreased by 0.2 percent, falling to 20.5 percent. This translates to 850,326 unemployed individuals, down from 20.7 percent in the previous quarter. While the unemployment rate remains high, the decrease is a positive sign of an improving labour market, potentially driven by policy measures aimed at stimulating job creation and economic growth.

Economic analysts attribute the uptick in employment to several factors, including recent governmental efforts to stabilize the economy, attract foreign investment, and implement job creation programs. Improved business confidence and a relatively stable macroeconomic environment have also likely contributed to increased hiring across various sectors.

Tinevimbo Shava, an economist, noted, “The increase in formal employment is encouraging as it signifies a move towards more sustainable and secure job opportunities. However, the persistence of high unemployment and a substantial informal sector indicates that more comprehensive measures are needed to ensure inclusive economic growth.”

Maintaining this positive momentum will require continued focus on creating an enabling environment for businesses, improving infrastructure, and fostering a favorable climate for investment. Additionally, targeted efforts to upskill the workforce and align educational outcomes with market needs will be crucial in addressing the structural challenges that have historically plagued Zimbabwe’s labour market.

The first quarter of 2024 has brought a renewed sense of optimism for Zimbabwe’s labour market, with significant gains in employment and a slight reduction in unemployment. While challenges remain, the positive trends observed in this quarter provide a foundation for further economic recovery and growth. The Government’s role in sustaining these gains will be pivotal as the nation continues its journey towards economic stability and prosperity.