IMF-ILO-Zambia Conference Calls for Commitment to Growth Strategy for Employment, Decent Work and Development

Press Release No. 12/189
May 24, 2012

A high-level international conference in Zambia—co-sponsored by the Government of Zambia, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—discussed the reforms needed to lay the basis for sustained, broad-based, and employment-intensive growth. The event was attended by representatives from labor, business, youth, academia, and civil society. The two-day meeting was opened by Dr. Guy Scott, Vice President of Zambia.

The discussions focused on policies to support employment growth and reduce unemployment and underemployment. The topics of the conference included the workings of the labor market in Zambia; the skill mismatch between the output of the education system and the current needs of employers; the role of macroeconomic policy in supporting employment growth; and the special challenges of reducing poverty in rural areas and addressing youth unemployment.

“The Government of Zambia is responding to the very real impact of unemployment and underemployment on working people,” said Dr. Scott. “This gathering will help to define the steps that must be taken to bring millions back into the workforce. Tackling the jobs crisis is not only critical for a meaningful Zambian economic recovery, but also for social cohesion and peace,” he added.

“Zambia has achieved significant economic success over the past decade, as measured by GDP growth and other macroeconomic indicators”, said Seán Nolan, Deputy Director of the IMF African Department.  “But the record of converting output growth into poverty reduction and expansion of formal employment has been mixed. Reforms are needed to lay the basis for pro-poor agricultural sector development, to address skill-mismatch issues, and to facilitate employment growth in the formal sector.”

“Unemployment has grown across the world since the onset of the global financial crisis”, said Martin Clemensson, Country Director of the ILO in Zambia, which estimates a rise of some 30 million in unemployment worldwide since 2007. “There is now a need to incorporate employment creation into the formulation of macroeconomic policies to improve employment outcomes. That is why the ILO and the IMF are supporting this national dialogue,” he added.

“Growth and jobs are inseparable, and Zambia must invest in social protection, diversify its economy, and reduce its dependency on copper,” said Jaap Wienen, Deputy Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation, which helped to organize the conference.

“We need to steer employment creation in the right direction. For that we need coherence and balance across policies, as well as coordination and dialogue among institutions and stakeholders. This conference has marked an important step in that direction,” said Fackson Shamenda, Zambia’s Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Labour.

Papers at the conference were presented by ILO and IMF staff; the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU); Federation of Free Trade Unions in Zambia (FFTUZ); Zambian Federation of Employers (ZFE); and the Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ). The presentations addressed aspects of labor market issues in Zambia and possible policy options for economic development strategies that would help generate employment and reduce poverty.

The IMF and the ILO agreed to continue supporting the Government of Zambia as it seeks to flesh out the measures needed to create the conditions for sustainable and broad-based growth. There was broad agreement among participants on the central role that inclusive and effective social dialogue can play in building the social consensus needed to tackle the challenges of unemployment and diversification of the economy.

The Zambia conference was part of a joint ILO-IMF initiative to support a broad dialogue on policies, strategies and programs for employment creation in three pilot countries: Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, and Zambia. The conferences are intended and to promote policy consultation among social partners—government, employers and labor unions—in each country.

Follow-up work on the themes of the Lusaka conference will take place in the coming months.

The Lusaka Conference website is http://www.imf.org/external/np/seminars/eng/2012/zambia/index.htm



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