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Zim Labor Survey Reveals Endemic Exploitation of Workers

Forty-two (42) percent of all employed persons in Zimbabwe earned less than US$ 138 monthly wage in the fourth quarter (Q4) to December 2023, reflecting deepening anguish for majority of workers, latest figures from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) show.

The 2023-Q4 quarterly labor force survey revealed that of all employed persons, 19.6 percent earned ZW$400 000 and less (below US$69) while 22.7 percent had incomes ranging between ZW$400 001 and ZW$ 800 000 which was equivalent to US$69 and US$138, respectively, using the average November exchange rate for the quarter of 5791 per American dollar.

Zimbabwe’s employment to population ratio -the proportion of the working age population that is in employment- stood at 36.7 percent.

Analysts say the latest wage figures reflect a labor force in dire economic distress as businesses struggle to offer sustainable wages to meet the rising cost of living.

Furthermore, the survey showed that of all employed people from both the informal and formal sectors, 86.8 percent were informally employed meaning that these workers did not contribute to social security such as NSSA and other social security schemes, were not entitled to paid sick and maternity leave and had no written contract from their employers.

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More worryingly, is the fact that even formal businesses now prefer to employ workers informally as a measure of cutting costs such as pension contributions, paid sick and maternity leave and written employment contracts that come with formal employment.

Without social security cover, workers are vulnerable to poverty in the event of life contingencies like old age, death, sickness, access to health care, employment injury, unemployment and invalidity.

Zimbabwe’s economy has significantly informalized in the past decade which has left the labor market at the mercy of employers. As a result, the wage structure varies depending on the employers, a situation that has been made worse by the absence of an agreed national minimum wage.

Last year, the National Commercial Employers Association of Zimbabwe (NCEAZ) set the minimum recommended wage to US$150 but the figure was widely condemned to be too little.

With wages this low, Zimbabwe is still a long way to meeting President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s upper-middle income economy status vision by 2030.

According to the World Bank, an upper-middle-class economy should have a per capita income range of between US$4 046 and US$12 535 per month.


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