Employment creation, sound and good industrial democracy

Ketlhalefile Motshegwa
Ketlhalefile Motshegwa

The thrust of my argument is that we need a developmental state to focus on total radical structural transformation of the economy to create employment and empower Batswana.

We must not shy away from dealing with the question of centrality of the State in the arena of development.

One of the most formidable challenges that have not been fully addressed is the structural inadequacy of the inherited economy at independence. At independence, Botswana like most African governments inherited an economy that had been created to export raw materials abroad at the expense of domestic requirements.

The Botswana economy was predicated on the development of a formal economy, with little linkages with the rest of the economy, which comprised the subsistence sector and informal economy.

Quite often, the phrase “employment creation” evokes in people minds, thoughts of projects to create jobs. Yet, employment creation is fundamentally about building an economy and society that work for all stakeholders, especially current and future workers. An economy and society that work for workers create enough jobs for all who want and are able to work, to actually work.

Furthermore, the lowest paying jobs pay at least a living wage, real wages increase over time, and workers share of national income increases, or at least does not fall. jobs pay ware decent

When unemployment reaches the levels at which we experience it in Botswana -  17.7% on the narrow definition that excludes discouraged job seekers, 33% if they are included - then it is a systemic problem and must be dealt with as such.

It cannot be resolved through projects that leave the economy on its current trajectory. As its manifesto shows, the UDC gets this. The BDP does not. As things stand, our economy is on a trajectory that leads to more joblessness unless a serious transformative shift is induced through the kind of policies that the UDC proposes in its manifesto.

An important part of the necessary transformative shift is industrial democracy, which is essentially about the meaningful participation of workers in decision-making, responsibility and the exercise of authority in the workplace.

The effective engagement of workers at the levels of decision-making, responsibility and the exercise of authority is not only good for workplace justice but has also been shown to grow in productivity. So by all means, let us allow effective unionism, and let us consider even more radical reforms such as having workers represented in corporate boards (the Germans do it) to enhance workplace democracy and workplace justice, and improve efficiency.

It is impossible to resolve the problems of unemployment and poverty without building a strong and inclusive economy. In this regard, there are compelling lessons that we ought to learn from the history of both successful and failed states.

How does a nation build such a dynamic and inclusive economy that creates enough decent jobs for all who want to work and able to work? The experience of successful nations shows that the following are the critical requirements for rapid, inclusive and job rich growth.

The countries that create jobs are, without exception, reasonably governed. They generally have:

l Good Leadership: Job creation requires competent, ethical and accountable servant leaders.

That includes accountability for job creation. In the United States, the monthly jobs report is one of the instruments used to hold Presidents accountable.

UDC President, Duma Boko, has set clear targets on jobs: 100, 000 in 12 months and a Living Wage of P3,000 per month. The sitting President refuses to share his targets, citing uncertainty. Lack of accountability does not get worse than that.

China is winning the fight against joblessness and poverty primarily because it has a strict meritocratic leadership ethos.

Only the best rise to positions of leadership in China.

l Good laws and good Policies: Economies are driven by incentives. The incentives are defined through laws and policies.

The countries that succeed in job creation generally have good laws and good policies that provide a regulatory environment that supports inclusive growth and job creation and help the country adapt to change. Botswana, with 17.7% unemployment, is yet to develop a coherent jobs strategy and has a litany of regulatory instruments that militate against economic growth and job creation.

For instance, centralisation destroys jobs to the extent it stifles innovation and at the sub-national level. 

l Good institutions: Laws and policies are implemented by institutions. The quality of a country’s institutions is a critical determinant of its capacity to create jobs.

Weak implementation cost jobs. Our institutions are generally weak, inaccessible and unresponsive. Worse still, they are not service oriented, Rather, they extractive in nature. The DIS is a perfect example but is by no means the only one.

Essentially extractive institutions, unlike service institutions, serve the narrow interests of the political and business elites. They are bad for jobs because they pollute the business environment and siphon resources out of the economy.

Beyond good leadership, good policies, good laws and good institutions, economic growth and job creation require effective and efficient public investment.

This includes investment in the hard Infrastructure – rail, roads, telecommunications, power grids and water storage and reticulation systems – that form the backbone of a successful economy. It also includes investment in high speed internet, education and health.

This epoch, more than any other, requires countries to invest effectively and efficiently in human resource development.

From pre-school to the tertiary level, education has to be universally accessible and relevant to the individual’s development needs and the requirements of the economy. This is what determines employability.

Sadly, Botswana has failed dismally in this area. Pre-school education is still a luxury. The education sector is in crisis. Pass rates in public schools are atrociously law. The seeds for a defective human resource base are sown in our failing education system.

That is bad for competitiveness, growth and job creation.

The problem in Botswana is that public education is a rudimentary requirement for employability.

There is therefore a need for the re-orientation of the education and training systems away from their current academic thrust towards the acquisition of practical skills such as carpentry, metal work, wood work, welding among others. This calls for a more demand-driven training system (such as traditional apprenticeships).

There is a surfeit of evidence showing that inequality is not good for growth and job creation.

In fact, part of the reason Botswana experiences jobless growth is inequality. Income inequality has ramifications for health, education, social mobility, access to resources and opportunity. It is a determinant of structural unemployment.

On the other hand, policies that promote equality and inclusion aid job creation.

Statistics on gender and unemployment makes for sobering reading. Around the world, women earn far less than men, as much as 40% less by some accounts.

Yet, a recent study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) argues that “Closing the gender gap in pay and representation by just 10% could deliver an additional 3.2% in GDP growth and a 6.5% reduction in the number of unemployed job seekers”. Closing the gender gap in pay is an important intervention for job creation.

There is very little up-to-date, gender-disaggregated, accurate and reliable information on labour market indicators such as unemployment.

The success of targeted employment strategies depends heavily on the provision of accurate, reliable and up-to-date information.  There is therefore a need for more frequent and detailed labour force surveys.  These surveys should provide information on the extent of unemployment and its characteristics such as gender and educational levels.

Regular tracer studies should be undertaken to ascertain the success or otherwise of training provision, micro-credit schemes and other interventions designed to combat youth unemployment and marginalisation.

A detailed Labour Market Information System should be developed by all stakeholders, namely, Government (including the Central Statistical Office), Business, Labour, NECs and other bodies involved in the labour market and where possible, should take advantage of the evolving Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

 It is also imperative to include youth groups and associations in decision-making and policy formulation processes so that their views and aspirations are also taken

Botswana has a contaminated and toxic industrial relations because of a militant stance by Government towards workers and Trade Unions. In both the public and private sector , the welfare of workers has been neglected and the conditions of service at a deplorable level . This is further hinged on draconian Labour laws and policies that fail to motivate for harmonious industrial relations.

Good industrial relations or industrial democracy is important as a subset of broader democracy to facilitate for productivity and social-economic and political prosperity of the Country .

That is why UDC Government will be focusing on constitutionalisation of fair Labour practices, support of unionisation , promotion n of social dialogue in the workplace , greater conditions of service and welfare of workers , good Labour law and policy framework, social protection, effective dispute resolution process through an independent dispute resolution institution , establishment of Labour court at appeals levels .

It must be emphasised that workers rights are human rights.

*Ketlhalefile Motshegwa is UDC Parliamentary Candidate - Gaborone Bonnington South. This is his recent presentation at UDC Gaborone Policy Discussion held at UB auditorium

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