Africa: Where have all the dismissed workers gone?
From People's Weekly World,
19 August, 1995, pg. 15
Harare, Zimbabwe - One day Nigerian
journalist James Olufemi was going about his
usual business of gathering news for the state-owned
outfit where he worked, next he was
hunting for a job.
That was in 1990, when the West African
nation was four years into a home-grown structural
adjustment program patterned after those
prescribed by the World Bank. Olufemi was one
of its many casualties.
Official statistics show that Nigeria had
about 500.000 state workers up to 1986. Since
then, the public service has been depleted by
more than 40 percent, according to the Nigerian
In Tanzania the state has shed about
50,000 employees in the past two years, while
in Zambia, structural adjustment has cost about
130,000 jobs in the public and private sectors.
In some cases, workers have not received
their terminal benefits, as has happened in
Zambia, where scores of workers demonstrated
in July outside State House in Lusaka in protest
against the non-payment of severance pay.
They were thrown in jail.
Says Godwin Erapi, head of research and
industrial relations in the Nigerian Labor
Congress, "Most workers are retrenched with
terminal benefits, but in most cases such benefits
are not enough. . .especially with the current
rate of inflation.
In most countries, the bulk of those who
have lost their jobs have been absorbed by the
small farming and informal sectors but in a few
cases, the lack of economic prospects has led
affected families to turn to activities frowned
upon by the authorities.
In Zambia, for example, many women
whose husbands lost their jobs have resorted to
brewing and selling illicit beer.
A document prepared by Zambia's Ministry
of Labor and Social Security admits that
"while substantial progress has been made in
implementing economic reforms, progress in
addressing the social dimensions has been lagging."
The Zambian government plans to encourage
jobless workers to go into farming. But
years of neglect have caused a near-collapse of
social services and infrastructure in rural areas
and it is unlikely that many of the urban unemployed
will jump at the resettlement option.
In Nigeria, no provision is made for former
public servants, whereas the military has a
skills-training program for retired soldiers.
In Zimbabwe, a Social Dimensions Fund
(SDF), set up by government to cushion the
structural adjustment blow, provides training in
small-scale entrepreneurship and soft start-up
loans of up to $1,750.
However, critics here point out that retrenchees
can seldom raise the 10 percent contribution
in cash or assets needed to secure a
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