Labour movement ‘not so free' By Arusha Times Correspondent Tanzania would continue to protect jobs for her citizens despite the anticipated free movement of labour in East Africa after coming into force of the EA Common Market Protocol later this year. A survey carried out by the East African Trade Unions Confederation (EATUC) indicated that unlike other partner states in the region,Tanzania would rationalise employment of foreigners in the country so that her qualified citizens are not marginalised. The government would only allow hiring of foreign workers for the use of technologies and skills that are not available locally. Such foreign workers would be required to facilitate the acquisition of the required skills by the local personnel. The objective is to ensure that work permits issued to foreign workers in the country do not prejudice skilled Tanzanians access to employment opportunities from local and foreign investments. A report by EATUC released last week indicated Tanzania's position on the labour integration in the regional bloc was different from some of her partner states who preferred free movement of labour within the region as espoused in the just concluded Common Market negotiations. "Unlike the other partner states in the region, the Tanzania employment policy emphasizes the rationalisation of employment of foreigners in that country" said the report by the confederation which is based in Arusha. The trade union body has been advocating integration of labour matters in the EAC region, including harmonisation of employment policies to enable the region have a well-nurtured and productive labour force that would contribute towards a dynamic economy and cohesive society. The study was undertaken to establish the reality about the labour market situation and the state of employment policy in EA with the ultimate aim of addressing the problem of unemployment and seek ways to create more jobs through stimulating economic growth and development. It was found out that unemployment and under-employment remained major problems affecting all the member states in the Community; Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda. The jobless include those who are willing and able to work but cannot get jobs while a sizeable number of those engaged are not fully utilised within their respective countries. The employment challenges faced by most of the partner states are similar and included, among others, shortage of technically skilled labour force to meet the labour market demands and lack of incubation support structures for employment creation. The survey found out that only Tanzania and Rwanda had employment policies in place while Kenya and Uganda had draft policies and Burundi none. The Tanzanian employment policy is explicit on the protection of jobs for the locals through rationalising the employment of foreigners in the country, facilitating Tanzanian job seekers to acquire the appropriate skills, coordinating the employment of Tanzanians abroad and the return of skilled Tanzanians to fill skills gaps. Strategies to address unemployment include improving and transforming the informal sector for creating decent jobs, enhancing promotion of youth employment and the capacity of the domestic private sector investors in creating new and better employment opportunities and improving and expanding employment services. Kenya, despite being the strongest economy in the region, was found to have more and complex problems in the employment sector. These included neglect of the labour intensive investments, rigid wage system, low labour productivity, underdeveloped micro and small enteprises sector and unstable industrial relations. Rwanda, where 60 per cent of her population is living under the poverty line, with limited mineral resources unlike Tanzania and little industrial base compared to Kenya, was also found to be short of technically skilled labour force to meet the labour demands. The tiny country, which joined EAC alongside with Burundi in 2007 and which has recorded fast economic growth in the last few years, has low level of modernisation of the agricultural sector despite employing about 90 per cent of its population estimated at 10 million. According to the survey, Tanzania had an estimated 800,000 new labour force entrants each year in 2005/2006 and that in 2006, 16.6 million people or 88 per cent of the economically active labour force were employed in the rural areas primarily on small holdings as self employed or unpaid family wokers. The remaining 2.2 million or 11.7 per cent persons aged 15 years and above were unemployed. Approximately three per cent of the total employed worked in the public sector, central and local government and parastatal organisations although employment in the public sector declined between 1990 to 2000 as a result of privatisation of the public enterprises. Uganda had 392,000 new job entrants into the labour market every year by 2007 and registered average economic growth rate of 6.5 per cent per annum and reduction of poverty levels from 56 per cent in 1992 to 31 per cent in 2005/2006. This, however, did no lower unemployment and under-employment poverty levels. Kenya's employment problem, on the other hand, has been compounded by what analysts described as mis-match between the growth rate of the economy and that of the labour force. Currently the labour force there is estimated at 12.3 million and is projected to reach 16.8 million this year. EAC officials say with the coming into force of teh EAC Common Market Protocol in July this year labour would be allowed to "move freely" within the region. Consequently, harmonisation and coordination of labour market would become crucial for the regional integration. This, according to them, would necessitate harmonisation of labour policies and laws within the region to facilitate free movement of labour within the Community.