Possession of a job is the basis of respect from other people and self-esteem. Whenever we meet someone for the first time, we want to know what he or she does for a living. If he says he has neither a job nor a business, we become curious and suspicious of him or her. It is usually people who are jobless and do not do any type of business that usually engage in illegal or immoral activities to earn a living.
Again and again, we read in newspapers of Malawians detained or stranded in neighbouring countries because they are there without permits or documents that allowed them to enter those countries. These are usually the people who have failed to find jobs at home.
At general and presidential elections in Malawi too many independent candidates win depriving those heading parties of outright wins. The reason is that the manifestos of the parties are hardly distinct. They do not talk about issues which divide political parties in developed countries like the United States, Britain and France.
In developed countries, unemployment, inflation, immigration, tariffs and interest rates are core issues. Each of the political parties state clearly what it is going to do with each issue if elected.
Trying to solve one macro-economic problem, results in exasperating another. For example, if you reduce interest rates, you may encourage over-borrowing from the bank, which may result in inflation. If you reduce inflation by raising interest rates too high, you may discourage borrowing for business expansion. This may contribute to unemployment.
The above are the facts which developed countries are concerned with. But how can we create employment in developing countries such as Malawi and what are the causes of unemployment in such countries?
Because the economy is not fully developed, most people of working age are not what communists call proletariats, people who own nothing but labour.
Many people who love to get full time employment are forced to do something that makes them under employed. Many are tilling small patches of land in rural areas. When they hear that a company has been established somewhere and wants to employ hundreds of workers, these people quit their villages to go and work there. We can say most people are unemployed or semi-employed because the resources of the country are not explored or are not being developed. Therefore, the first thing to do to create jobs is to invest capital in natural resources and develop them. When you invest capital, you need workers at the same time. Capital goods or equipment cannot operate without humans.
The following are activities which can lead to the creation of employment. First make conditions available which can induce people who have capital to think of opening business. Some will be local businesspeople while others will be foreigners. Because few people have capital or skills to operate big business, governments that want to create employment should devise means of attracting foreign direct investors. These people have got not only finance that can buy machines, but also skills and technology. Technology embraces both knowledge and equipment.
Indigenous businesspeople are reluctant to venture into big and risky businesses. In such situations, partnership of sorts between State agencies and private firms is highly desirable. When we read of how gigantic industries grew South Korea and medium-scale ones grew Taiwan, we notice there was State intervention in the economy. This State intervention took the form of making available cheap credit to young industries, protecting them by the use of tariffs.
The word subsidy sometimes sounds objectionable. But economic histories of all the countries that we now know as developed started with subsidies and protectionism. In short, employment is created by the private sector with some assistance from the public sector. The State can help increase employment opportunities by giving greater support to companies which are prepared to be more labour intensive than capital intensive. This means companies which are prepared to use more human labour than equipment. The assistance could be in the form of lower taxes.
The State should stabilise the employment situation by not imposing too high minimum wages. Where minimum wages are too high, some firms dispense with human labour and use machines instead.
The State should set up a sizeable fund for the purpose of giving temporary work to the unemployed who are in need of the basics of life such as food and shelter. Public works are a better form of helping people than giving them dolls. When you give dolls, you encourage the habit of idleness such as playing the pebble and hole (bawo) game for several hours a day. n