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Promoting employment and decent work for all - Towards a good practice model in Namibia

Bishop Dr. Z. Kameeta, Dr. Claudia Haarmann, Dr. Dirk Haarmann, Herbert Jauch

Basic Income Grant (BIG) Coalition

Presentation to the United Nations Commission for Social Development,
45th session, 7-16 February 2007

SARPN acknowledges United Nations Commission for Social Development as a source of this document:
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I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective -- the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.
(Martin Luther King Jr in: Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)

Decent employment is a matter of survival for the people of Namibia. The call for a good practice model towards employment creation and decent work for all, must sound like asking for the realization of heaven on earth for the majority of Namibians. Namibia holds the sad record of being among the most unequal country in the world (UNDP, 2004:38). The huge socio-economic disparities are largely a reflection of colonialism and apartheid, but also of the class stratification that has taken place in post-independent Namibia (Jauch & Karamata, 2005:1). Despite having been classified as a lower middle-income country, about 2/3 of the people live below the poverty line (Haarmann & Haarmann, 2005:34). Having a job is a question of “to be or not to be” as there are very few safety nets and virtually no possibilities of making a decent living outside the formal sector. Furthermore, a large portion of formal sector workers earn “poverty wages” that hardly enable them to sustain themselves and their families (Jauch, October 2004:1). Besides poverty and unemployment, people in the region face further challenges such as HIV and AIDS, labour migration, tenant labour systems and generally low skills levels (Torres, 1998).

Nevertheless, it is safe to say that despite repeated calls from various groups for large-scale job creation, this goal has not been achieved. According to Namibia’s Labour Force Survey of 2000, 33.8% of the population were classified as unemployed. Official statistics indicate that this figure rose further to 36.7% in 2004 (Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, 2005). The Labour Force Participation Rate has dropped significantly from 53.4% in 2000 to 47.9% in 2004 (Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, 2004:39). These unemployment figures stand in contrast to the otherwise impressive macroeconomic figures. Over the last few years the country has shown positive economic growth rates, low inflation and interest rates and strong domestic demand (Jauch & Karamata, 2005:1). This, however, did not translate into additional jobs.

This paper starts of by looking at the social circumstances of Namibians today. We have analysed statistics with a view of highlighting what they mean for the majority of the population. This first section highlights the importance of a structural intervention. The second section assesses the current strategies, their success and weaknesses. The third section looks briefly at possible alternatives within the current framework. The fourth section tries to sketch the way towards a good practice model in Namibia, by showing that a redistributive programme in the form of a Basic Income Grant, is an important step towards promoting employment and decent work on a large scale in Namibia. Two main features are key to the programme:

  • To curb abject mass poverty and to free people out of the destructive circle of the survival economy by giving income security.
  • To redistribute wealth to the majority of people, where it is most effective and to foster both investment and consumer demand.
It is argued that this is a programme, which would have an immediate impact on mass unemployment and poverty. In conjunction with further developmental policies it has the potential to lead to employment and decent work on a large scale.

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