Where do jobs come from?

By Caesar Cheelo and Mwanda Phiri

"Nifunako Nchito ba-Boss banga!" [I want a job, my Boss!] How often have you heard these or similar words? What do you think your response would be if someone walked up to you right now and asked you for a job? Do you think you would be able to help them get a job?

Once I heard someone respond by saying: "Iwe, don’t ask me! Ask the Government. They are the ones who said they will create 1 million new formal jobs by 2016; their Industrialization and Job Creation Strategy is very clear. So go and ask them, not me! Maybe they can give you one of those million jobs!!"

But where do jobs come from and who is responsible for creating them? What are we to say to the six former University of Zambia students who gathered at Arcades shopping complex in Lusaka to protest about unemployment. Or too the nine year old girl Chewe, whose affection for her father, James, who lost his job, came to national attention earlier this year. What we can say is that there is no single source of jobs for James or the UNZA students who are searching for work. So many factors determine job creation.

Howard Hyde, an economist who writes for the Website "American Thinker" put it this way: "No one give you a job because you deserve one. No one gives you a job because you need one. Not because you are a good person, not because you are breathing, can fog a mirror, and/or are entitled… You get a job because someone needs some work done and is willing and able to pay you for it". Howard stresses that: "The 'free market' doesn't mean you get stuff for free", the point being that free market economies will award jobs those that are economically relevant. And Zambia is a free market economy…

A few months ago, Makweti Sishekanu so eloquently said it in the Zambia Daily Mail earlier this year in April: "A job is what you are hired and paid to do; whether you bring any tangible solutions to this planet or not. Work on the other hand, in what you are born and gifted to do in generating solutions to the problems of human existence on earth." An emphasis on relevance to society and a de-emphasis on entitlement mentality is evidence in Makweti's sentiments.

All this points to the fact that, at least in part, the solution to creating more and better jobs lies in expanding those elements or activities in the economy that lead to the hiring of people or the establishment of opportunities for people to create own work. Creating own working means employing one's self as an entrepreneur, a business developer or ultimately, an industrialists. That is where jobs really come from. They come from expanding labour-intensive economic activities, usually through the modernization and industrialization of the different sectors of the economy; hence the notion of industrialization and job creation.

But for jobs to be created, our own skills and attitudes must be right, others in society must be willing, able and empowered to work with us, work for us or hire us, and the environment underpinning our economic activities must be supportive. The extent to which these factors are right in Zambia is currently unclear. More detailed research and policy analysis is required if we are to unravel the mysteries about where more and better jobs will come from now and in the future in Zambia. As a society, Zambia has to choose its balance between looking to the public sector machinery and looking to self for jobs and prosperity.

The authors are researchers at the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (ZIPAR).
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