Analysis: INUTU MUSHAMBATWA
THE Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) plays a key role in the socio-economic recovery programme of the country aimed at achieving sustainable economic growth and improving the well-being of Zambians.
The ministry is charged with the responsibility of formulating and administering labour laws and policies as well as monitoring and evaluating social security programmes, schemes, research development of social security standards and the promotion of social security.
The ministry also safeguards and promotes the health and safety of workers in particular, and generally looks into the working environment of workers through preventive actions and measures in workplaces. Furthermore, the ministry ensures harmonious industrial and labour relations in the country. It also regulates the labour and employment sector in order to enhance the sector’s contribution to sustainable social and economic development of the country.
Apart from departments that look into coordination of policies and budgets, finance and human resources, the ministry has the occupational safety and health, national productivity development, social security and labour departments.
The occupational safety and health department’s mandate is to promote and enforce occupational health and safety standards at places of work to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. The programmes and activities of the department are focused on prevention of occupational diseases and accidents in the world of work.
The national productivity development department’s role is to look into issues of productivity in the nation. It aims at improving productivity in the country through programmes such as work culture remodelling, which looks at the attitudes and behaviour of workers and how they regard work.
The Social Security Department deals with social security-related matters. It formulates appropriate social security policies, monitors and evaluates social security schemes, research, and awareness programmes.
The role of the Labour Department is to provide the policy and legal framework on administration and management of labour. This department administers and enforces labour laws, engages in the promotion and maintenance of industrial peace and harmony; the settlement of disputes pertaining to industrial and labour relation matters, as well as ensuring that there is full protection of workers and employers’ rights, in a safe working environment through labour inspections.
Important developments in labour laws and policies in 2018
The ministry has three main policies that facilitate the smooth running of the institution. These include:
The National Employment and Labour Market Policy, which the ministry is currently revising to enable the promotion of gainful and decent work, in all sectors of the economy in line with the revised Decent Work Country Programme.
In an effort to enhance its capacity to ensure compliance and enforcement of occupational, safety and health standards and practices in the nation, the ministry is revising the Occupational Safety and Health Policy and amendment of the Factories Act.
Furthermore, the ministry is developing the National Productivity Policy to address the institutional gaps as the main aim of this policy is to improve productivity in all sectors of the economy.
There are several pieces of legislation being reviewed in labour and social security, which include the Labour Code Bill and the National Social Protection Bill 2017. There is also the Industrial and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill 2017.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Labour has issued the new statutory instruments to revise the minimum wages. These are:
The Minimum Wages and Conditions of Employment (Domestic Workers) Order; Minimum Wages and Conditions of Employment (General Order) 2018; and the Minimum Wages and Conditions of Employment (Shop Workers) Order 2018.
Another significant change is that of labour market and information. Through this system the ministry intends to offer labour market information and statistics for planning, decision making and tracking jobs created in the country. This system will provide data on skills supply, vacancy monitoring in various sectors in the country and automation of labour administration. The ministry is currently firming up this system which is being developed with the support of European Union and Germany Technical Aid in Zambia.
Furthermore, the ministry conducts quarterly Labour Force Surveys (LFS) to generate information on the performance of the labour sector. Thus LFS measures the labour market indicators in the Zambian economy and assesses the impact of the labour market policies taken by Government. The LFS provides accurate and timely information to what is obtaining in the labour market in the country. This provides guidance to decision-makers. The ministry works with the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and carries out the LFS. The 2017 labour force survey shows that the estimated labour force was 5,049,059 persons. Of these, 2,289,961 were females and 2,759,098 were males. 52 percent of the labour force is in urban areas whereas 48 percent is in rural areas. 75.9 percent of the workers in Zambia are in the informal sector. The LFS further shows that the unemployment rate was at 41.2 percent. The rate was higher among females at 48.8 percent than among males at 34.8 percent.
Rural-urban analysis shows that urban areas had a higher unemployment rate at 50.8 percent compared to 32.2 in rural areas. More information can be obtained from the 2017 labour force survey.
The author is public relations officer, Ministry of Labour and Social Security.
Analysis: INUTU MUSHAMBATWA