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ILO and IMF support discussion of a new strategy for employment, decent work and development in Zambia

Zambian authorities, trade unions and employers agreed to work together and with the ILO and the IMF to promote employment by creating inclusive growth, at a two day-meeting that ended in Lusaka on 22 May.

Press release | 23 May 2012
LUSAKA (ILO News) – Zambian authorities, trade unions and employers agreed to work together and with the ILO and the IMF to promote employment by creating inclusive growth, at a two day-meeting that ended in Lusaka on 22 May.

“The Government of Zambia is responding to the very real impact of unemployment and underemployment on working people”, said Zambian Vice-President Dr. Guy Scott in his opening address. “This gathering will help define the steps that must be taken to bring millions back into the workforce. Tackling the job crisis is not only critical for a meaningful Zambian economic recovery, but also for social cohesion and peace”, he added.

Participants to the Conference which was organized by the Government of Zambia, the ILO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) especially insisted on the importance of social dialogue between governments, employers and workers to promote sustainable economic growth and decent work.

Despite an economic growth rate averaging 6.1 per cent over the past five years, unemployment levels have remained high in Zambia, inhibiting reduction of poverty and inequality. Meanwhile, the informal economy – which represents about 90 per cent of the labour force - has continued to expand and requires actions aimed at organizing and regulating it.

The discussions focused on policies to support the expansion of decent work opportunities and the reduction of unemployment and underemployment. They also covered the skill mismatch between the output of the education system and the current needs of employers, strengthening of labour legislation, tripartism and the protection of workers’ rights, as well as the challenges involved in reducing poverty in rural areas and in addressing youth unemployment.

Promotion of increased agricultural productivity, diversification, industrial development and productivity was seen as vital to tackling the jobs gap and poverty.

Attended by the Finance Minister and the Labour Minister, the Conference also discussed the role of macroeconomic policy in supporting employment growth as part of a more coherent inclusive growth strategy.

“Unemployment has grown across the world since the onset of the global financial crisis”, said ILO representative Martin Clemensson. “There is now a need to incorporate employment creation into the formulation of macroeconomic policies to improve employment resources. That is why the ILO and the IMF are supporting this national dialogue”, he added.

“Zambia has achieved significant economic success over the past decade, as measured by GDP growth and other macroeconomic indicators”, said Seán Nolan of the IMF. “But the record of converting output growth into poverty reduction and expansion of formal employment has been mixed. Reforms are needed to lay the basis for pro-poor agricultural sector development, to address skill mismatch issues, and to facilitate formal sector employment growth”, Mr. Nolan added.

At the conclusion of the Conference, FacksonShamenda, Zambian Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Labour proposed a series of recommendations for a policy package for inclusive growth and development. This will form the basis for continued discussions in Government, between government and the Zambian social partners and with the ILO and IMF.

Amongst the issues he highlighted were a designing and progressively implementing a basic minimum social protection floor for all, with due regard to the available fiscal space, as well as strengthening labour legislation, inspection and enforcement. He stressed the need to ensure that ensure workers’ rights are effectively protected.

"We need to steer employment creation in the right direction. For that we need coherence and balance across policies, as well as coordination and dialogue among institutions and stakeholders. This conference has marked an important step in that direction”, concluded FacksonShamenda, Zambian minister of Information, Broadcasting and Labour.

The Lusaka conference brought together senior government ministers with leaders of trade unions, employers and representatives of youth organizations and civil society, together with senior officials from the ILO and IMF.