Economic slowdown hits jobs in Zambia, but the worst may be over – ZIPAR research reveals

The impact of the recent Zambian economic slowdown on both businesses and the public is revealed for the first time in research commissioned by the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (ZIPAR) as part of its flagship More and Better Jobs project.

A large survey of businesses and a nationally representative survey of the public were conducted and published last week on 23 June 2016 at the Radisson Blu Hotel. A key finding was that over the last year 9.3% of Zambians say they have lost a job and were unable to find a new one, while 2.8% report going from having no job to acquiring one. A third of businesses surveyed report laying off staff in the last year.

The research also highlights how the hardest hit have been the young. The survey reveals a clear generational effect. Of those who report having lost of a job and not found another in the last 12 months, 13.4% are under 25, compared to 6.4% aged 41-55.

More positively, there was evidence that the worst may be over. Some businesses appear to have made difficult decisions about their workforce in 2015 (laying off of workers and imposing recruitment freezes), and now feel better placed to withstand economic challenges. When we asked businesses when they felt 'the impact of the economic challenges most severely', well over half – 61% – stated the second half of 2015. Only 7% said the first quarter of 2016. There was also some optimism about the future with about a third of Zambians and businesses being upbeat about future job opportunities.

Other findings included:

  • Negative public and business economic perceptions: 4 in 5 Zambians say the economic situation has worsened in the last 12 months. Three quarters of businesses think the same.
  • Jobs are a priority: Zambians identify improving job opportunities as the top priority for how the government should improve the economy.
  • Mixed impact on wages: 6.1% of Zambians polled reported falling wages, while 6.6% say that they received a pay rise over the last year.
  • Views on government: Around 9 in 10 Zambians say government has most responsibility to improve job opportunities, but 62% think not enough is currently being done.
  • Businesses bottom lines: 73% of firms experienced at least a 25% fall in profits. Small firms have been hit the hardest.
  • Increasing prices: The most common response from business has been to increase their prices, followed by decreasing production.
  • Recruitment freezes and redundancies also prominent: Large firms were more likely to impose a recruitment freeze or effect redundancies.

ZIPAR Acting Executive Director Mr. Shebo Nalishebo said:

This research provides the first authoritative assessment of the impact of the recent economic challenges on jobs in Zambia and brings the issue of jobs back to the discussion table. It is vital to have information like this to help inform government policy thinking on how best to respond to the slowdown and do even more to help improve the job opportunities of Zambians. ZIPAR will publish further detailed analysis as part of its flagship project on More and Better Jobs later this year.

Notes to Editors

  1. This is based on a report titled “In the Eye of a Storm: the impact of the economic slowdown on the labour market in Zambia”. The report is found here:
  2. The research was commissioned by ZIPAR and conducted by Ipsos, an organization recognized worldwide as a leading specialist in conducting robust and reliable surveys and polls. The research included both a business survey and opinion poll: the business survey covered 173 private sector firms and face-to-face interviews were conducted in Lusaka, Copperbelt, Southern and Central Provinces between the 5th and 20th of April 2016. The opinion poll was nationally representative and based on a sample of 1,510 Zambians. It was conducted between the 2nd and 22nd of April 2016
  3. The report is part of ZIPAR’s Flagship Project on More and Better Jobs. For further information on this project see:
  4. ZIPAR is a socio-economic think-tank whose mandate is to conduct research and policy analysis. ZIPAR was established by the Government Republic of Zambia (GRZ) with the support of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).

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