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graduates join jobless heap every year
Mail and Guardian
November 01, 2013
View this article
on the NewZimbabwe website
is your typical used car salesman: he talks fast, has pointy shoes
and wears large shades. Except that on the wall inside his makeshift
office is his three-year-old science degree.
As he flips
through a catalogue for a truck a client is looking for, he jokes
about how little he is applying what he learned in four years of
university in his line of work. “I wish I could say
there’s a science to selling cars, but this is just a way
to make a living,” he says.
His car lot
stocks imported used cars from Japan and the United Kingdom. Like
many of the hundreds of similar car lots that litter Harare, his
business barely breaks even. But he is grateful that he at least
can make a living.
Each year, Zimbabwe
churns out close to 10,000 graduates from its 13 universities. But
as businesses downsize and lay off workers, few of those graduates
have any real chance of a job. And so they end up in the informal
sector, hustling with everyone else.
Zimstat, the national statistics agency, about 60,143 students enrolled
in universities last year.
But after the
joy of being capped at graduation, the reality of the task of cracking
an increasingly tough job market soon sets in.
say at least 100,000 jobs have been lost since 2004. And while the
economy has experienced some recovery over the past four years,
companies have had to lay off workers to cut costs.
A recent report
by the national pension fund said that more than 700 companies had
shut down in Harare alone since 2011, swelling the jobless ranks.
There is no
agreement on exactly what Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is.
Various sources put it at anything between 70% and 80%. However,
the government says these figures ignore the contribution of the
informal sector, and it counts the self-employed among the employed.
Zimstat says unemployment actually stands at 10.7%, a figure dismissed
by economists and unionists.
Mutasa Dzinotizei says these statistics are drawn from a survey
held between 2011 and 2012, which shows that the other widely used
figures were inaccurate.
Even the government’s
opponents are unsure. While he was finance minister, Tendai Biti
said those touting jobless numbers as high as 85% were “textbook
economists” who ignored the informal market.
Yet, his own
party puts the unemployment rate at 80%, saying that it may have
peaked at 92%. Zanu-PF, in its election manifesto, put the rate
at about 60%, higher than the official number.
What is not in dispute is that much of Zimbabwe’s formal economy
has been decimated, replaced by a booming informal market.
A Zimstat survey,
which sampled more than 6-million people between the ages of 16
and 18, revealed that 22% of the population was in formal employment
last year, while 57% were farmers or ran small businesses. About
3.7 million Zimbabweans had some sort of involvement in informal
But labour expert
and economist Charles Tembedza says the official data actually counts
we agree on, and what you will not hear any of the bureaucrats argue
with, is the fact that we are not creating the jobs that our young
people need,” he says. “We should worry when our graduates
take odd jobs to survive.”
the central bank, the informal sector now contributes between 60%
and 70% to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product, six times the
level a decade ago.
graduates end up
As a sign of
the growing informal sector, a new report by researchers Knowledge
Transfer Africa found that about $14-million exchanged hands between
January and June this year at Mbare Musika, the country’s
largest vegetable market.
So this is where
many of the country’s graduates end up; barely making a living,
and not using any of the skills they have gained.
A survey by
human resources experts Industrial Psychology Consultants shows
that graduates are spending more than five years after graduating
without formal jobs in their field of study.
When asked how
they were earning a living, most graduates responded “by indicating
some form of buying and selling. Many ideas were pointed out, like
chickens, cellphones or some form of services they are offering
to people”, the report said.
Nguwi, who heads the company that did the research, “The huge
disconnect between job creation and the skills supply is illustrated
by a paradox of the current economy: persistent, high unemployment
exists alongside severe skills shortages and unfilled positions
in many companies.”
It is a situation
car dealer Siziba knows too well. “The country needs our knowledge,
but then, on the other hand, we are not needed.” Persistent
high unemployment exists alongside severe skills shortages and unfilled
positions in many companies
It is a ritual
most graduates look forward to: bending a knee in front of President
Robert Mugabe and receiving a gentle tap on the head.
hostility among students, as campuses have long been a breeding
ground for opposition politics, everyone still wants to graduate
top of their class to qualify to be capped by the president.
kind of funny that we campaign a lot against him, against how he
has ruined education, but still scramble for his blessing,”
says blogger Tavaka Nyoni, who graduated with a bachelor of commerce
degree from the University of Zimbabwe last year.
like much of Zimbabwe really; we say we despise him (Mugabe), but
there is a secret admiration for him somewhere in there.”
Over the past
few months, Mugabe has capped thousands of graduates from at least
five universities across the country. Despite his age, it is not
unusual for him to spend hours at each stop capping hundreds at
He once capped
thousands at two separate universities in a single day.
Last week, after
capping more than 1,200 at the Chinhoyi University of Technology,
the jubilant graduates broke into chants of “Gushungo”
as he conferred degrees, state media reported. Gushungo is Mugabe’s
totem, popular among his supporters.
while capping more than 2,000 at the University
of Zimbabwe, there was a similarly jubilant reaction among graduands.
But the popular ritual is merely a passage for graduates from student
to the ranks of the unemployed.
time there is a graduation at any of Zimbabwe’s universities
and colleges, the national unemployment rate goes up,” quipped
Pride Mkono, the leader of the national students union, Zinasu,
at its conference.
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