Oct 10, 2016

After years of intensive negotiations and dialogue bringing together governments, civil society and millions of ordinary people around the world, UN member states unanimously agreed in September last year to what the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as the “most inclusive development agenda the world has ever seen”, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals. Agenda 2030 places decent work for all at the heart of policies for sustainable and inclusive growth and development. It is estimated that globally over 600 million new jobs need to be created by 2030, just to keep pace with the growth of the working age population.

More people in decent jobs means stronger and more inclusive economic growth. And higher growth means more resources to create decent jobs. It is a simple equation, but one that has been largely neglected in the international policy-making environment. By putting job creation at the heart of economic policy-making and development planning, it will not only increase decent work opportunities but also more robust, inclusive and poverty-reducing growth.

Decent work puts money in the pockets of individuals and families that they can spend in the local economy and save for further investment. Their purchasing power fuels the growth and development of sustainable enterprises, especially smaller businesses, which in turn are able to hire more workers and improve their pay and conditions. It increases tax revenues for governments, who can then fund social measures to protect those who cannot find, or are unable to work.

But not only that, decent work for all reduces inequality and increases resilience. Policies developed through social dialogue help people and communities cope with the impact of climate change, while facilitating the transition towards a more sustainable economy. And not least, the dignity, hope and sense of social justice derived from having a job helps build and maintain social peace.

So, in short, job-centered economic growth creates a feedback loop that is as good for the economy as it is for people and that drives sustainable development. It is for this reason that an ILO recommendation from 2015 (No.204), encourages Member States to ensure that an integrated policy framework aimed at facilitating the transition from the informal to the formal economy, is made part of relevant national planning. The recommendation emphasizes that livelihoods of individuals should be secured in the transition process, a key issue in view of the need to ensure that the transition to formal employment supports poverty-reduction efforts.

Hon Masisi, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Botswana remains one of Africa’s success stories, having transformed itself from a Least Developed Country at the time of independence in 1966 to an upper Middle Income Country within three decades. This transformation was propelled mainly by effective use of revenues from mineral resources, in particular diamonds. Notwithstanding this impressive track record of robust economic growth and political stability, Botswana faces serious challenges related to chronic unemployment, high poverty levels in relation to its per capita income level, income inequality and unemployment. 

One of the development objectives pursued by the Government of Botswana through its successive National Development Plans has been employment creation. This is in recognition of the importance of employment creation in realizing other objectives of poverty eradication and income distribution.  Despite this, employment creation has remained low compared to demand for jobs.  While Botswana has registered impressive economic growth rates, following discovery and exploitation of diamonds in the late sixtieths, this has not been matched by an equally impressive growth of employment.

The overarching challenge for Botswana is how to make growth inclusive. Inclusive growth is highly relevant for Botswana in several respects, especially in light of increasing unemployment (in particular youth unemployment), pervasive poverty and high-income inequalities in the face of high growth. A more equal distribution of income allows for increased economic stability, more sustained economic growth, and overall healthier societies with stronger bonds of cohesion and trust. Recent IMF research affirms this finding. Promoting inclusive growth involves adopting a holistic sustainable human development policy framework that is pro-people, pro-jobs, and pro-nature.

Botswana has a relatively young and dynamic population. With the declining age-dependency ratio currently estimated at 57 for 100 and projected to reach 52 by 2031, Botswana has the largest ever working age population with fewer dependents. The window of opportunity for the demographic dividend is therefore great.

However, Botswana’s labour market is characterized by an increasing labour force that is young but unable to find decent jobs. This is partly due to the capital intensive nature of the sector driving economic growth, i.e., mining sector, and the inadequately diversified economy.  This is also a result of a skills mismatch. As a result, unemployment has been relatively high and is currently estimated at almost 20%. Unemployment among youth is particularly high standing at 41% for 15-19 year olds; 34% for 20-24 year olds; and 22% for 25-29 year olds. Women, as almost always is the case, are more affected compared to men. 

Maintaining a healthy labour force remains a key objective for Botswana. With a national prevalence rate estimated at 18.5% and an incident rate at 1.35, HIV is a major health issue of the working age population.  This is particularly true for female workers as the prevalence rate remains higher among female compared to males, reaching above 50% in the age group 35-39 years. 

Hon. Masisi, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The main cause of unemployment in Botswana is structural, related to the enclave nature of the economy and its excessive dependence on capital-intensive mining. This structure of the economy implies that the formal sector has a growth momentum of its own, while the non-formal segment, which is not directly integrated to the formal sector, has its own growth trajectory, resulting in uneven development.  Such a structural distortion implies that even in the presence of growth, the economy is unable to absorb the vast numbers of the un- and under-employed into the mainstream economy. 

Skill shortages and mismatch (especially entrepreneurial skills), poor attitudes towards work that contribute to low productivity, lack of funds to start up a business as well as lack of an entrepreneurial culture among Batswana, have been identified as key factors behind the current high unemployment rates. In addition, training is supply-driven and haphazard with respect to meeting the needs of industry and hence the mismatches between skills demand and supply. But the major challenge is not just creating employment opportunities for thousands of youths in the job market, but anticipating and preparing the new generation for future skills requirements in an evolving employment landscape. 

Despite some progress made over the last few decades in increasing women’s labor force participation and narrowing the wage gap between men and women, gender inequality in the labour market still remains a big challenge. Women continue to form a large majority of the working poor, earn less and are more often affected by long-term unemployment than men. The reasons for this are many, but by and large related to women’s socio-economic disadvantages caused by gender-based discrimination and their double roles of being a worker and a care taker for the society. Women often have less access to productive resources, skills development and labor market opportunities than men in many societies, and Botswana is not an exception. Largely, this is because of persistent social norms ascribing gender roles and responsibilities for women, which are often slow to change.

So with this in mind, what has to be done? Multiple things, of course, but allow me to highlight some of particular importance, what you may refer to as a 10+ Action Plan for employment creation with a focus on reducing youth unemployment:

Small businesses need to be supported as labour markets transform and entrepreneurial activity strengthens. 

Access to finance should be made easier and conditions created to allow enterprises to flourish. Working conditions should be improved and SMEs helped to move to the formal economy.

Macroeconomic policies that promote job creation and support demand and investment need to be prioritized, along with tax, infrastructure and sector-specific policies that enhance productivity.

We have to ensure effective implementation of laws and policies for equal pay for equal work and equal remuneration for jobs of equal value for women and men in all sectors.

The youth has to be capacitated through education, skills development, vocational training and talent mobility.

We have to address the existing skills mismatch by ensuring that training programmes meet labour market needs and by introducing work experience components in technical vocational education and training.

Greater protection of youth has to be ensured through the provision of comprehensive information on their options, such as educational scholarships, as well as technical, vocational, entrepreneurial, and on-the-job training opportunities.

Promote social inclusion of migrant youth to help shape positive attitudes among migrants and native youth alike in order to bring down social barriers of xenophobia, marginalization, and discrimination.

Private and public partners need to collaborate closely with youth groups to give them access to opportunities for them to contribute to the progressive sustainable socioeconomic development of Botswana. 

The youth of Botswana must ultimately be empowered and healthy to participate in the processes and decisions that affect their lives.

Monitor, evaluate and when necessary adjust youth empowerment and employment policies such as the Youth Development Fund (YDF), The Young Farmers Fund (YFF); the Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) and National Internship Programme (NIP).

And overall, a green economy is necessary if sustainable development is to be realized. A green economy can also, if accompanied by the right policy mix, create more and better jobs, lift people out of poverty and promote social inclusion. It also demonstrates that employment and social inclusion must be an integral part of any sustainable development strategy.

To summarise, over the years the UN has engaged extensively with the Government of Botswana on several initiatives towards employment creation and some crucial and very positive results have been achieved over that period. However, there have been challenges with bringing some of the planned activities to a conclusion, in several instances due to limited follow-up by national counterparts. In this regard – and in particular in view of the youth unemployment crisis in the country, we as the UN believe it is vital to engage in concerted efforts, to revitalise and upscale youth employment initiatives at the national level, and to mainstream employment issues (with youth as a target beneficiary group) throughout national frameworks, as well as through national policy making and programme design/implementation. As the UN we stand ready to support the Government in Botswana in such an effort, as we consider this key to reach the overall goal of implementing the SDG, eradicate poverty and Prosperity for All.

Thank you!

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