BOPEU proposes unemployment benefits programme

BOPEU members during a congress
BOPEU members during a congress

Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has called for the introduction of an unemployment benefits programme because economic growth alone is not sufficient for poverty reduction.

In a Botswana labour market policy booklet produced in consultation with Professor Happy Siphambe of the University of Botswana, BOPEU says having an unemployment benefit policy in the country is long overdue. BOPEU justifies the policy on the grounds that Botswana is a middle income economy and the high employment rate.

The union says the main challenge of unemployment benefits is the costs to government and the capacity and institutional requirement for a well-functioning public employment service. The evaluation of the programmes where they have been introduced has shown that they are an effective tool in poverty eradication.

“The country currently has no unemployment insurance scheme, which we propose is long overdue given the country’s current labour market situation, especially with a high unemployment rate and the fact that it is a middle income country. Generally, eligibility to unemployment insurance is based on previous contribution to the unemployment insurance fund.

The principle is that contributions, whether paid for by the employer or employees, would match benefits paid out, making the system financially neutral. Those who are fortunate to stay in employment during periods of job losses will be subsidising those who need them because they lose their jobs,” the BOPEU document says.

It says despite Botswana’s economic success, key challenges remain, like high unemployment and poverty rates and the weak link between mining - the sector driving growth - and employment. The weak link has resulted in a relatively high unemployment rate. “As a result of the relatively high unemployment, the informal sector has been increasing in terms of number of Batswana engaged in the sector.

The country also has skills mismatch that are partly a result of an inadequate link between skills training and demand for skills from a lack of human resources planning,” BOPEU says.

The union acknowledges that the country has had several programmes geared towards enhancing both demand for labour and supply, especially employability through appropriate training. “Given the challenges of some of these programmes, there is need for them to be redefined within a labour market framework,” the report says.

Besides unemployment benefit programmes, the union proposes active labour market policies to boost labour demand through well targeted subsidies and tax reduction as part of fiscal regime; policies targeted at enhancing employability of the disabled Batswana; an effective labour market information system to deal with any labour market information asymmetries. “On the supply side, we propose various improvements in the training and retraining of labour to deal with unemployment that may emanate from recessions and other government policies such as privatisation. The implementation of these active labour market policies would require cooperation and active participation of all social partners in the labour market,” BOPEU says.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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