Zimbabwean university and college graduates have voiced strong views about the country’s diminishing job market, which is reflected in the country’s growing informalisation, leaving little prospects for work.
While the government does not produce employment figures frequently, it is no secret that the economy has under-performed for many years forcing companies to downsize in order to stay afloat.
This has been worsened by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which adversely affected business.
However, at the same time, tertiary institutions have been churning out tens of thousands of graduates every year creating an unsustainable mismatch between job seekers and employment opportunities.
Many graduates find themselves resorting to “odd” jobs for survival.
“The job market has not been favorable for many fresh graduates. There are not as much job openings and the few opportunities that arise you realize that companies are looking for individuals with a minimum of 5 years’ experience,” said Godknows Seremani, a holder of a Business Studies degree from the University of Zimbabwe.
He says very few companies are offering graduate trainee programs which further complicate his chances of getting requisite experience.
In March this year, Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) in its 2021 Fourth Quarter Labour Force Survey said a total of 314 304 jobs were lost during the fourth quarter of last year after the country experienced high inflation levels prompting employers to downsize.
Zimbabwe’s working age population is estimated at 8 957 612, with 3 035 419 being employed both formally and informally.
Another graduate, Kudzanai Muronzi says he almost gave up applying for job interviews as he could not meet the required work experience.
“I applied for work as an accountant at many companies but I did not get called for a single interview until after a long wait when I got a call from a local company,” said Mr Muronzi.
There is contestation among policy stakeholders on definitions used by Zimstat in coming out with unemployment figures.
Zimstat established that the country’s unemployment rate, using the strict definition, was estimated at 20 percent, much to the chagrin of labor unions who claim it could be way ahead opting to use the expanded definition.
In 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that Zimbabwe has the second highest informal economy in the world after Bolivia at 60.6 percent.
This “hidden economy” includes all economic activities which are hidden from official authorities for monetary, regulatory and institutional reasons.
In 2019, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised about 850 000 jobs largely from various government approved infrastructure projects.
However, critics have hit back saying the figures were exaggerated not sustained by meaningful investments across the entire economic spectrum.