Employment, unemployment and informality in Zimbabwe: Concepts and data for coherent policy-making

Malte Luebker
  • Place of Publication: Geneva
  • Publisher: ILO

Abstract: Despite a sharp fall in formal sector employment since the late 1990s, Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate has remained below 10 per cent. While this figure has been met with disbelief in Zimbabwe, the present paper finds that it is based on a consistent application of the international definition of unemployment.  However, the unemployment rate alone is only of limited utility to assess a country’s labour market situation since it does not reflect the quality of employment. This
paper therefore argues that it is necessary to go beyond the employment / unemployment dichotomy and to analyze the quality of employment. It does this on the basis of the 2004 Labour Force Survey by applying two complementary concepts of informality: (i) the enterprise-based concept of informality and (ii) the jobs-based concept of informality. The findings indicate that informal employment, in particular, made a substantial contribution to overall employment and accounted for
just over 80 per cent of all jobs in 2004. However, cash incomes of informal workers were generally extremely low and their working conditions poor. The paper closes by extracting the main findings to inform debate among the ILO’s constituents and points out directions for future policy formulation.

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