Uganda's National Employment Policy: A journey towards sustainable job creation and inclusive growth

The International Labour Organization (ILO) organized a three-day capacity-building training session designed to support the revision of Uganda's National Employment Policy to accelerate decent job creation and inclusion.

News | 02 October 2023
Entebbe, Uganda (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO), together with its International Training Centre (ITC-ILO) and in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development (MGLSD) delivered a three-day capacity-building training to support the revision of Uganda's National Employment Policy (NEP) and its alignment with the Fourth National Development Plan (2026-2030). The training marked a milestone in Uganda's commitment to forge a resilient employment framework that fosters sustainable economic growth for job creation and inclusion.

Key stakeholders involved in the NEP drafting process participated in the capacity-building sessions that took place from 27 to 29 September 2023 in Entebbe, Uganda, including various government agencies, trade unions, employers’ organizations and development partners. The training provided an opportunity to systematically reassess the ongoing NEP development process. It integrated insights from global best practices, which seek to strengthen macroeconomic stability to achieve an inclusive economic transformation and a competitive workforce in high-potential sectors for job creation such as tourism, Information Communication and Technology (ICT) and in the digital economy at large.

The inaugural session delved into the significance of the NEP to the Ugandan economic and labour market context. Speaking at the occasion, Jealous Chirove, Acting Director of the ILO Country Office in Dar es Salaam, extolled Uganda's proactive stance in advancing a comprehensive employment policy and non-discrimination initiatives. “Today we have a chance to build a solid document that guides employment policies for the next 10 years with real potential to bring positive changes for all, including target groups such as women, youths, informal workers, and people affected by forced displacement,” he added. This is particularly relevant in the context of Uganda, where refugees are legally permitted to engage in employment and can make a significant contribution to the country’s prosperity.

Martin Wandera, Director of Labour, Employment, Occupational Safety, and Health at the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development (MGLSD), also expressed gratitude to the ILO for its support in capacity-building. He underscored the pivotal role of the Ministry in job creation, highlighting its evolution over the years from its limited focus on standards and social dialogue to a broader, more encompassing role in employment creation, promotion of demand-driven skills and inclusion. Wandera stressed, “Jobs don’t just happen; it is not a spontaneous phenomenon” and urged for “deliberate economic development planning that places job creation at the forefront and that is integrated into other social and economic strategies and inclusive programmes.” He also identified the NEP as “the starting point in this critical journey”.

Participants at capacity-building training in Entebbe, Uganda

Global trends and employment policy responses

At the training, Sher Verick, Head of the Employment Strategies Unit at the ILO, delivered a comprehensive analysis of global economic and employment trends, setting a contextual backdrop for the development of Uganda's NEP. His presentation encompassed trends in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and inflation, the profound challenge of youth unemployment, and the need to adopt labour market underutilization indicators. He introduced the ILO's jobs gap indicator as a multifaceted instrument for understanding labour underutilization, particularly in low-income countries.

Bernd Mueller, Manager of the Employment Policy and Analysis Programme, at the ITC-ILO, stressed that “Uganda’s growth has not coincided with the creation of more and better jobs. This is a structural economic challenge and thus requires structural solutions that can drive the process of structural transformation for job creation. Pro-employment policies at macroeconomic, sectoral and labour market level are required to turn this trend around and create better employment and living standards for Ugandans”.

ILO Employment Specialists even shed light on the importance of policy implementation, such as intra-governmental coordination and pro-employment budgeting, to ensure that the NEP can be impactful and achieve its stated ambitions.

Revisiting the NEP development process in Uganda and charting the path forward

The capacity-building training explored avenues for the finalization and alignment of Uganda's NEP with the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4).  Participants underscored the need to recalibrate the focus from job distribution to job creation. This process involves empowering individuals through skills training, fostering entrepreneurship through financial support for start-ups, and aligning educational institutions, such as universities, with the imperative of providing vocational training.

Participants recognized employment as a cross-cutting issue that demands synergy across various government agencies. Consensus was also clear on the notion that implementation, the cornerstone of success, demands effective coordination, accountability mechanisms, and support systems. The ILO affirmed its commitment to provide technical support and pledged for active participation in NDP4 consultations while championing the mainstreaming of employment as a concrete objective.

Moving forward, participants mapped a series of next steps to ensure that the NEP revision happens within the expected deadline of December 2023 and follows a process that references the best practices introduced during the workshop. Key actions include:
  • Establishing an employment policy implementation task force to oversee coordination, monitoring and resource mobilization;
  • Formulating the terms of reference for an issues paper on employment to inform the formulation of NDP4;
  • Initiating a digital diagnostic to offer insights into employment policy implementation; and
  • Envisaging a timeline for consultations, with a commitment to finalize the policy and action plan by December 2023, poised for cabinet approval.

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This event was supported by the PROSPECTS programme in Uganda and the Opportunity Fund project on the Promotion, inclusion and protection of refugees and host communities in the gig economy , with the generous funding of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.