By CHRISTINE MWAABA
ONE of the most critical components of inclusive economic growth in Zambia is sustainable job creation.
Access to decent work opportunities may make one realise one’s aspirations, improve one’s living conditions and contribute meaningfully to the social and economic wellbeing of society.
Decent work has also been clearly highlighted in goal number eight of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is for this reason that the Government has outlined decent work as one of the key issues in its 2019 budget.
Government is undertaking labour law reforms to strengthen the protection of rights of workers.
Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe said the Government has made progress in the harmonisation of various labour laws by consolidating the Employment Act, the Employment of Young Persons and Children Act, and the Minimum Wages and Conditions of Service Act into a single labour code.
In addition, Government is amending the Labour and Industrial Relations Act aimed at enhancing industrial relations.
This will also promote decent work.
Ms Mwanakatwe said this when she presented the 2019 National Budget in Parliament recently.
In order for this critical goal to be attained, organisations such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO), are working towards achieving decent work for all.
Speaking in an interview, ILO Africa Deputy Regional Director Van Rooij said employment and labour issues are central to the development of any nation in the world, especially for the youths.
Mr Rooij said workers continue to be key drivers for any development strategy and their role needs to be acknowledged in terms of remuneration and working conditions that paves way for broader social and economic advancement for individuals.
He said decent work provides better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives.
Mr Rooij noted that the agenda of ILO and its partners for decent work and social justice is the primary goal.
The aim is to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all in delivering on the decent work country programme, the national development plans and the SDGs.
He expressed pleasure that Zambia has put up a number of interventions that promote decent work for its citizens.
Sharing the same sentiments, ILO Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique country director Alexio Musindo said there is need for increased number of decent employment opportunities for Zambian women and men because this is the remedy that will lead to poverty reduction in the country.
Mr Musindo said ILO holds in high regard its values of social dialogue and bringing representatives of Government, employers, and workers together to the table to jointly find workable solutions because the key is to support growth that is truly sustainable, inclusive and has an effect on reducing poverty.
“Towards this aspiration, ILO has supported its Zambian constituents a great deal over the past years.
“One of the major efforts has been to support Zambia in the development of the national employment policy,” Mr Musindo said.
Recently, President Edgar Lungu said that Zambia’s aspiration must be to foster national development and promote productive decent work aimed at ensuring inclusiveness and equity for all workers.
“Productivity is indeed a key prerequisite in economic growth and poverty reduction.
“While it is important to create more jobs to improve the living standards of our people, there is also greater need for stakeholders across all sectors to consider enhancing productivity at all levels,” President Lungu said.
The Head of State emphasised that Zambia is committed to providing equal access to employment for youth, women, men and people living with disabilities, among others, in line with the ILO Convention number 122 which seeks to promote equality among different classes of the workforce.
As a member of the UN, Zambia is committed to ensuring that the SDGs are fully realised.
In particular, goal number eight places emphasis on decent work and economic growth.
The Zambia Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) is on record having said that workers everywhere need decent work conditions in order to increase productivity levels and achieve sustainable economic growth.
This is because decent work can promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment.
The creation of additional decent permanent job opportunities in the Zambian economy is what most youths need and this makes Government’s focus on industrialisation, employment and wealth creation worth supporting.
Such Government programmes will ultimately reduce poverty and inequality on a sustainable basis, besides reducing challenges of unemployment in the country.
Government should continue investing in sectors that have been identified in the 2019 National Budget to best promote employment for the youth in particular.
Companies should also ensure that their workers are empowered with the requisite skills that contribute to productivity.
The labour system does of course require consistent cleansing so that people are placed in the right positions, according to their skills and expertise to encourage efficient service delivery.
As for the labour unions, they need to supplement Government’s efforts by ensuring that employers are enlightened on the importance of new policies aimed at improving the welfare of workers.
Such institutions have a critical role to play in ensuring industrial harmony in the country.