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Statistics Botswana defends unemployment figures

Publishing Date : 21 February, 2018


Following criticism from various quarters on the recently released unemployment preliminary results, Statistics Botswana authorities have this week come out to defend the credibility their unemployment statistics.

Statistics Botswana on the 15th of  August 2017, announced stats indicating that employment in Botswana is increasing, contrary to the general sentiment of growing unemployment amid job losses suffered in the mining and related sectors in recent years. A lot of people, including politicians and academics have dismissed the credibility of the stats. “The release of these results has generated a lot of interest among major constituencies including media, the youth, professionals, academia, politicians and private individuals,” said Statistician General Anna Majelantle.

“There have been inquiries about the categorisation of Ipelegeng engagement. Whereas Ipelegeng employment is not a permanent engagement, the definition [from International Labour Organisation] that I have just enunciated classifies a worker in Ipelegeng as being employed. Previously Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo had stated in parliament that the exercise of including Ipelegeng workers on employment figures is to satisfy the International Labour Organisation (ILO) requirements that guide data collection regarding employment.

Ipelegeng, a controversial government initiative however does not provide long term jobs as the beneficiaries are also expected to serve one month and then give others a chance. According to the stats, the program is employment for 52000 individuals while quasi-government institutions only employed 36000 individuals. However, according to Majelantle, the methodology interprets anyone who was engaged in the past seven days for a payable duty as employed. This is in line with the ILO definition which defines an employed person as someone who, during the past seven days has performed some work for wage or salary, in cash or in kind.

Majelentle pointed out that the 2009 Statistics Act stipulates that Statistics Botswana should ensure that it carries out its primary objective of producing and disseminating official statistics in accordance with the standards and principles issued by the United Nations Statistical Commission. The methodology also means that, those who made it in unemployment stats do not include individuals who have not been actively looking for employment in the last 30 days or those who have given up on ever finding jobs.

The preliminary results of the Botswana Multi Topic Household Survey under Economic Activity were released this week showing a decline from 19.9 percent in 2011 to 17.6 percent. The survey was carried out during the 2015/2016 period. Statistics Botswana targeted a population of those aged 18 years and above, estimated at 1, 2 million of which 838 002 were economically active and 430 675 were economically inactive. While Majelantle noted that disaggregation of all economic activity data is important for job planning and decision making, there are those who are of the view that stats which do not not reflect the reality on the ground are unlikely to help in policy formulation.

Majelantle’s deputy, Dr Burton Mguni admitted that the released results do not factor in the recent job losses including the BCL closure, which led to over 6000 direct jobs being lost. The Statistics Botswana boss revealed that the final reports shall reflect all categories of employment as requested by stakeholders, which among others will entail permanent jobs, interns, and temporary as well as volunteers as requested by stakeholders.

Majelantle also reiterated that as employment by the sector, the private sector remains the largest employer with 44.6 per cent of the employed population. The sector includes industries like wholesale trade, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction, households as employers and accommodation and food services, which all employed high proportion of the labour house.



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