The unemployment business

Something is not happening right in the employment sector. Or should we say, the unemployment sector?

Reports of overseas employment agencies exploiting jobseekers are becoming routine.  The audit findings of the employment policies are damning. And now we hear of the ministry withholding the survey that is expected to give the people a picture of the country’s labour market.

Labour officials cite flaws in the technicalities of the labour force survey for not generating the findings of the 14th survey. These claims are made even though the national statistical bureau is consulted. Such assertions are made even though the same methodologies were used to assess the labour market for the last 13 reports.

The recent audit findings, however, found the same surveys being conducted scientifically. That the technical team has pointed out flaws in the whole process of the survey questions the audit authority’s findings.

The ministry’s reluctance to share the findings of the labour market situation is disturbing.  It questions the credibility of all the past reports, based on which new polices were framed.  It questions the integrity of an institution and its professionals responsible for the country’s human resource development. It risks losing public trust in an authority that is mandated to tap into the skills and knowledge of the workforce, the prime drivers of a society’s socioeconomic development.

While the ministry reviews the technical flaws, it is waiting for the reports of the population and housing census that would also capture the labour market. It is claimed that the same questions that are asked in the labour force survey were asked in the nationwide population and housing census. But wasn’t this issue of duplication the same reason why questions on corruption were not asked during the three-day census?

As the source of information of the labour market, the ministry must be transparent with its findings. Hiding behind technical flaws do not hide the unemployment situation in the country. Words doing the round is that the high youth unemployment rate is one of the reasons for keeping the survey unpublished. Unemployment has become a business and jobseekers victims. We cannot monitor our own programmes and have failed a generation that deserves much better.

If the ministry is reviewing the process, then all past surveys must be studied. We may have started it out all wrong. The 2015 labour force survey report found the overall unemployment rate at 2.5 percent. Youth unemployment rate was 10.7 percent and female unemployment rate 12.7 percent. For now the ministry is using these statistics but we are not sure if it could be trusted. Its recent decision has made all the past findings unreliable.

This leaves the people with no knowledge of the state of unemployment in the country today. The government claims to have done much in creating job opportunities. To show that it has, it must reveal figures. Depriving people of information is undemocratic and withholding information a weakness.

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