Zambia, richly endowed with natural resources, is the largest copper producer in Africa and has an attractive touristic sector. The population, 12.9 million (2010), is very young: almost half of the people are aged 14 or under. Rapid population growth has been affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and now stands at 2.4 per cent.

A multi-party system was introduced following constitutional change in 1991. Since then economic growth has picked up, averaging six per cent in recent years with strong growth in construction, mining, telecommunications and tourism. Yet growth has not been inclusive and has had limited impact on poverty reduction. “Zambia’s Vision 2030” lays out the aspirations of the Zambian people to reach middle-income status and full employment by 2030. In 2010, GDP/capita was at $1,253 and employment rate reached 77 per cent. 

Decent work and the labour market issues

Employment opportunities and labour market issues are at the heart of the Zambian economy and hold the key to sustainable development and poverty reduction. The Zambian Government has prioritized the creation of decent work in Vision 2030 and successive National Development Plans and is determined to ensure that jobs created are providing rights at work, ensuring social protection, and social dialogue.

The overwhelming majority of people work in the agricultural sector and informal sector jobs, and often, in the formal sector, jobs are precarious. Women, young people and people with disabilities are particularly exposed to vulnerable work.

Social security coverage is limited. The national pension scheme is the largest programme and covers only eight per cent of the workforce.

Given the large size of the informal sector, social dialogue is limited. In 2006 Zambia joined the African Peer Review Mechanism under the African Union to improve implementation of ILO Conventions.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to impede poverty reduction and poses challenges to the decent work agenda, especially for women and workers in urban areas.

Child labour is another issue of major concern with many children working to supplement family income and a rising number of HIV/AIDS orphans working to survive. 

Decent work into national planning

In the Fifth National Development Plan (2006-2010) the Government laid plans to promote employment creation, labour productivity, skills development and improve working conditions and the provision of social security.

The Sixth National Development Plan (2011-2015) aims to diversify the economy by focusing on agriculture, tourism and manufacturing as well as strengthening the energy sector and improving infrastructure. A key element of the plan is to increase employment in the formal sector and upgrade workforce skills.

To support these goals, Zambia’s Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) 2007-2011, developed by the Government and Social Partners with ILO support had the following priorities:
  1. job creation for women, young people and people with disabilities
  2. prevention and mitigation of HIV and AIDS in the world of work
  3. elimination of child labour, particularly in its worst forms
The DWCP priorities also contribute towards the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

National partners


Further reading