ILO Says Half A Million Youths Fled Zim In 2020

The quest for better income opportunities forced an estimated 580 000 youths to leave Zimbabwe for greener pastures beyond the borders in 2020 alone, a recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) report has established.

The survey, titled Labour Market Diagnostic Analysis (LMDA), states that the number does not consider net migration, which has been negative in Zimbabwe, with numerous workers leaving the country in search of better work opportunities that often do not materialise. The survey may prompt the country’s main political actors to go back to the drawing board and re-strategise on how to woo the youth in the next general elections scheduled for 2023.

“It is estimated that in 2020, net migration the number of immigrants minus the number of emigrants was close to 580 000 people. Although there is no accurate data on the number of the working age population, leaving the country to work abroad. The most recent study suggests that 72% of outgoing migrants fall in the 20 to 34 years age group. In addition, 40% were women and 73% completed secondary education.

“The majority of emigrants cited a lack of employment opportunities as the major reason for leaving the country. Most worked in the agricultural sector before their departure. South Africa was the leading destination chosen by emigrants, followed by Botswana. Unfortunately, due to their irregular status, most Zimbabwean emigrants appear to occupy low-quality jobs characterised by the absence of employment contracts and social protection,” the LDMA report said.

The developments come at a time when the embattled country has endured skilled worker shortages in the health sector and other key scientific fields. This is despite having subsidised the education sector heavily over the years in a twist of events which has prompted market watchers to describe Zimbabwe as a training ground for other nations.

Speaking to The NewsHawks via email, the United States of America-based lead researcher on the LDMA, David Robalino, said available research indicates that a substantial share of migrants eventually return home.

“As for what to do to ‘void’ the outflow, there are two things to keep in mind: the goal should not be to avoid or stop migration; there are many social benefits for sending and receiving countries.  Migration is here to stay.

“Therefore, the goal should be to rationalise migration flows, bring them closer to a social optimal.The main ingredient for that is improving job opportunities in Zimbabwe. Our report focuses on how to do that,” he said.

The report observes that, other things being equal, women and young workers are four times more likely to be inactive than men and adult workers respectively.

Youth who enter the labour market may also face additional barriers to find a job, partly due to a lack of work experience, difficulties signalling their skills to employers, fewer opportunities to access capital and lower levels of social capital.

Commenting on the report’s key findings, ILO country director Hopolang Phororo said it was time the government prioritised the link between economic growth and job creation.

“The findings of the LDMA indicated that increasing living standards and promoting economic and social development in Zimbabwe requires improving employment opportunities. Economies grow when more working age household members work and when each job in the economy becomes more productive.

“At the same time, households escape poverty when labour income, the main source of income for most households, increases. It is also most likely that better employment opportunities for Zimbabwean workers will foster social stability and consolidate democracy,” she said.  

In general, the LDMA report further says, the risk of inactivity and unemployment is higher in Matabeleland and the Midlands than in the capital or other provinces, attributable to structural factors such as the lower prevalence of farm activities and the fact that the effects of de-industrialisation seem to have been more severe in urban centres in these provinces.

The LMDA points out that one interpretation is that social norms and the structural factors that affect employment opportunities, and that are likely to vary by region are more binding for women and young workers. The News Hawks

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