The scramble for jobs is a wake-up call

01 November 2019
Author   Jackie Wilson Asheeke

You are choosing to be blind if you do not see tens of thousands of Namibians swarming offices to apply for a limited number of jobs. The government, facing a re-election bid, can spin and gloss over many things. But nothing can overshadow the government’s inability to manage the employment crisis epitomized by those long lines.

There are more people standing in line to apply for jobs that are in attendance at any political party’s election campaign rallies and speeches. While I have no evidence whatsoever, I’ll wager that most of those in line for jobs, haven’t registered to vote or will choose not to vote. I wonder if anyone in power or seeking power is able to manage this urgent and scary problem.
In January in Ondangwa, hordes of unemployed youth flocked to TransNamib's Nehale lyaMpingana Railway Station to scramble for 40 temporary labourer jobs. 
In July, hundreds of desperate people flocked to the Swapo head office in Katutura hoping to get a job on the N$730 million construction plan for the upgrading of the ruling party's headquarters. No jobs were actually available.
In September, nearly 26,000 people applied for 120 positions at the Namibian Correctional Service (NCS). 
This week in the capital city, close to 3,000 desperate job seekers waited in line for hours at the Windhoek Central Hospital to apply for nine cleaner vacancies. 
FYI:  To those surly, nasty, bored employees working behind counters, at tills and in offices, take note!  You’d better start valuing your job.  Bad customer service, misbehaving on the job and zero work ethics will get you fired sooner or later.  Next time, it could be YOU in that long line of thousands of desperate people waiting to apply for nine jobs!
Back to the point – 
We all know that thousands of graduates are sitting at home or are under-employed at jobs where their hard-won skills are useless. 
In February last year, 80 pharmacists who completed their studies at the University of Namibia in 2017 and 2018 applied for only one available post in the health ministry. 
Hundreds of foreign-trained Namibian engineers demonstrated in anger for almost two years as most of them cannot be hired in the Ministry of Works even though there are openings! 
Surely, there is a national plan to focus what is left of our financial resources on job creation! If not…we may find these frustrated unemployed people in scary subversive movements or violent bread riots.
Of course, corruption and the perception of corruption blooms in chaotic employment situations. When resources are scarce, people fight harder for whatever they can grab for themselves. Qualifications or a fair employment selection system matter little. When anyone is hired for anything, envy and jealousy bubble to the top. “He doesn’t have any qualifications!” “She hired her sister’s children” “She was only a secretary and now she has gotten that high job?” “Only people from a ‘certain’ tribe are employed there!” “He cannot take a job that should be for one of us who live here!” We all know the usual complaints.
What is the government’s plan for short-term and temporary unemployment?  All candidates must answer this question.
Has money for job training been cut in the budget? If so – put it back.  Is the NTA training levy money actually helping more people obtain better credentials? How many entry-level or semi-skilled civil service jobs remain frozen? Unfreeze a percentage of them.  Are tenders for contracts using state funds awarded subject to demands that a certain number of local unskilled and semi-skilled job openings are created? 
What tax breaks or incentives are being offered to households who hire staff in domestic jobs or for spot jobs? What subsidies or financial support is being offered to viable SMEs to hire even one additional worker? Is money available from development partners to co-fund paid internships and apprenticeships with private sector businesses? Does every educational institution have a practical class called: “How to get a job?” for upcoming matriculants or degree/diploma graduates? 
What happened to some of those old job creation ideas from TIPEG days like hospitality/welcome staff at airports and the seaport during the tourism season?  What about cultural artists paid to visit schools and teach what they know in workshops?  What about the crews of unemployed on the street corners formed into trash pick-up groups and paid based on the amount of trash collected?  What about a tiny VAT percentage set aside, a departure tax for foreigners, or a diamond half-percent levy?  
I would like to see a box on all tax returns where people can choose (or not) to tick a square and to pay an additional N$100 to go to a ring-fenced fund to help finance a variety of temporary jobs.  How about a percentage of park entry fees going straight to tourism industry employment creation? 
We must be CREATIVE to solve the problem. When will those in charge stop finding reasons why something cannot happen and start finding ways to make it work?  Those people in hopeless job lines deserve the extra effort.
The scramble for jobs must be a wake-up call. There are real solutions to the massive stampedes of job seekers if leaders focus on the desperate and unemployed.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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