Is it 51,2 % unemployment or not?

Is it 51,2 percent or not? This question appears to be on many a lip in Namibia, and someone out there owes the nation an explanation. We are referring here to the now magic figure of 51,2 percent as the percentage of people in Namibia who are unemployed. Is that really the official figure. If yes, then why is the information not being made public. The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has not helped the situation by sealing its lips on the matter, refusing to neither confirming nor deny the figure. Despite it being now quoted even by some public official, the figure has not been formally brought to the public domain as the official figure. In fact Namibian press reports plucked the figure from the yet-to-to-be-published Namibia Labour Force Survey (NLFS) of 2008 leaked to the media in February this year. The survey allegedly says unemployment figures reached 51,2 percent in 2009. The survey reportedly also says that this nation of 2,2 million people has a workforce of more than 716 000. It also claims that 58 percent of women in the country are unemployed while more than 40 percent of men are jobless. It reels out other statistics. More than 60 per cent of Namibians between the ages of 15 to 34 can’t find work. In the group for 15 and 19 years, more than 83 per cent are unemployed. More than 67 per cent of Namibians between 20 and 24 years are stranded without employment. For those between the ages of 25 to 29, more than 53 per cent are jobless, while 46 per cent of people between 30 and 34 years share the same predicament. For Namibians of 50 years and older, the broad unemployment rate is 35 per cent. Omusati region has the highest unemployment rate at 78,6 per cent in the country, followed by Ohangwena with 76,4 per cent. Unemployment in other regions stands at 70 per cent in Kavango, 68,6 per cent in Oshikoto, 65,6 per cent in Caprivi, 50,4 per cent in Kunene, 48,8 per cent in Oshana, 48,2 per cent in Omaheke, 43,8 per cent in Otjozondjupa, 38,6 per cent in Hardap, 33,5 per cent in Khomas and 32,6 per cent in Erongo. Nearly 65 per cent of those living in rural areas are jobless, while more than 36 per cent in towns are stuck without work, according to the survey. In the absence of official word on survey results, we will never know whether the figure includes players in the informal sector such as the car washers or Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs). Media reports also claim that the survey was conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and completed in September last year but that the results were never made public. According to the Namibian newspaper of February 04 2010, which broke the news of the unemployment figure quoting the unpublished survey results, the ministry of labor had promised to launch and publish the figure before the end of February. Apparently this is still to be done. This has resulted in a scurry of speculation on whether the 51 percent unemployment figure being bandied around should be treated as the official figure. The matter is not being helped any further with reports that a cabinet Minister in the name of Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, of Justice, is questioning that figure. We are certain she is not the only with those sentiments. Even Prime Minister Nahas Angula also has reservations about the figure. Surely the government, through the Ministry of Labour, needs to come clean on this. If these are the true figures then they should be made public and the nation can unite in finding solutions to the problem. If they are not, then the record needs to be put straight.

April 2010
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