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WOMEN IN SIERRA LEONE’S LABOUR MARKET

Viewed 3840 times 2016-2-9 15:26 |System category:News


Sierra Leone has an area of 73,326 square kilometers with a current population of about six(6) million of which 51% are women and over 75% of the people residing in the rural areas highly dependent on subsistence agriculture and micro-enterprises/household enterprises. This indicates that majority of the rural people are micro entrepreneurs, or small holder farmers or both. The financial system is small comprising the Bank of Sierra Leone (Central Bank), twelve (12) Commercial Banks, sixteen(16) Community Banks, two (2) Discount Houses, fifty-two(52) Foreign Exchange Bureaux, a National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), seven(7) Insurance Companies, 6(six) Insurance Brokers and a few other Non-banking Financial institutions(NBFIs)- with macro of microfinance institutions(MFIs) and Small & Medium Enterprises(SMEs).The Sierra Leone socio-economic space is characterised by a large agrarian sector, which accounts for about 80-85% of the rural employment and at least 75% of the total population. Most of the people in this sector are self-employed and unpaid family workers which constitute macro of the female population compared to male. Mining and other non-farm activities are also important rural activities. Cash crop production (mainly cocoa and coffee) is primarily carried out by men, while women dominate food crop production. (Bank of Sierra Leone Newsletter July-August, 2012). 

There is also a large informal sector whose transactions hardly go through the banking system and getting data on their activities is difficult. (Sierra Leone Government National Micro-finance Policy,2003). The second largest sector is the urban informal sector, which emerged largely as a result of accelerated rural-urban migration, and the labour surplus generated in the cities. This sector represents over 70% of the urban labour force and at least one-fifth of the total labour force (Sierra Leone Government National Micro-finance Policy,2003). Women accounts for about 65% of the Informal Sector’s workforce. The key features of the informal sector are dominance of self-employed individuals of which majority are women(such as petty traders, street vendors, carpenters, tailors and taxi drivers). The sector largely relies on labour services provided by owners and families, but occasionally also on paid labour without formal employment contracts. Labour productivity is low, underemployment is high especially for women, job security is pervasive, wages are highly flexible and workers do not receive much from employers. Legal minimum wage laws do not apply and unions play very limited role in wage fixing. Perhaps more important is the limited access to credit opportunities for enterprise start-up and expansion. (Sierra Leone Government National Micro-finance Policy,2003).

The graph below show case the proportion of women business activities in Sierra Leone,s Labour Market.

AN OVERVIEW OF THE LABOUR MARKET IN SIERRA LEONE

The total population of Sierra Leone’s labour force is about 2.3 million persons. The young population is 63% below the age of 25 years. It is estimated that 70% are below the poverty line. Men are slightly more engaged actively in the labour market than women, except during youth, women are more active, which is mostly due to more men continue in school after primary education. Relative to Sub-Saharan Africa, Sierra Leone had a slightly smaller middle class. In 2010, 12% of Sierra Leoneans lived for US$2-4 a day and 7% for US$4-20 a day, compared to Sub-Saharan Africa where 14% lived for US$2-4 a day and 10% for US$4-20 a day. The latest data for working poverty in Sierra Leone is from 2011. Slightly more working women lived for under US$1.25 or US$2 a day, but on average Sierra Leone’s working poor were at a comparable level to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2011.

Sierra Leone has been displaying and embressed the principles of democracy with a successful peaceful power transition to two(2) democratically elected president and has been in the direction of economic transformation and development since the end of the civil war in 2002 that subjected the Country to difficulties and challenges such as; poor infrastructure, economic melt down, transparency in managing the country’s vast endowed natural resources, strengthening the democratic Institutions, widespread rural impoverishment, lapses in public financial management and economic openness and the list goes on.

Before the invasion of the ebola plague in 2014 which reverse growth and other gains and devastates the health and socio-economic system, the government has been prioritizing reforms to reduce corruption, providing free health care and improving transport, power and public health infrastructures. As a result, the country was ranked as one of the world’s top reformers by the 2012 World Bank’s Doing Business index. The country also experienced an exploding economic growth before the ebola outbreak, particularly as a result of the commencement of iron ore production and an expansion in agriculture production. Before the plague and the fall in the primary commodity prices, there has been a significant increase in the Country’s Fiscal space as royalties from mineral exports increased geometrically that lead to the increase of the real GDP. Inequality remains a very big challenge severe and doing business is bleak, with some improvements, though government and other Organisations are doing their best to mitigate that risk. Moreover, the country has been hard affected by the Ebola epidemic during 2014 which has created an urgent health crisis as well as a negative impact on the economy, especially in the agricultural sector. The labour market is also hit, e.g. the health sector has been colossally devastated with low morale among health workers as well as drivers can no longer commute passengers from place to place where places are quarantined.

Many of the obsolete labour laws, dating back to the 1960s, have been undergoing reforms and updates. The process was proposed to have concluded at the end of 2014 but yet to be reached as a result of the plague. So far, a new draft of the Employment Law exists. The National Employment Policy has not yet been implemented, which has compounded the labour sector. On the other hand, the minimum wage was increased almost three times from 2012 to 2014, reaching US$111 per month.

There is a dissension existing between the skills in demand in the labour market and those produced by existing educational and training institutions, including vocational education.

The Employment information and communication system are not effective due to inadequacy and scarcity of employment centers. The estimated unemployment is measured at 3.4%. It is relatively low and due to a large majority of workers are absorbed by the informal economy, which represents about 92% of the labour force. Also youth unemployment is relatively low at 5%. The working youth and the more structural unemployment are much higher, though. The youth unemployment has turned into an incubator of  high political priority, since it is estimated to increase sharply the upcoming years. Also child laborers are exacerbating and very widespread and are twice as much frequent as in the Sub-Saharan Africa on average.

The trade union movement is opening and under a fast expansion with an increased of unions’ paid up members by 24% from 2009 to 2014, mainly due to the entry of new members from affiliated unions in the informal economy. Also within the same period, affiliated unions membership have demonstrated an expansion of about 600% extremely high growth, reaching 455,000 members.Trade union members to waged workers have been estimated at 39%; and seven Collective Bargaining Agreements are registered that cover 45,000 workers.

A rapid urbanization is present, with many young people migrating into the cities leaving the rural areas for the hunt for human empowerment and better human livelihoods. With little urban job creation, most find work as self-employed in the informal sector. Also, Foreign Workers Law is planned to strengthening workers protection against trafficking and forced labour practices by recruitment and employment agencies mitigating the associated risk.

Notwithstanding the devastating ebola plague in 2014,a free and universal health care service was implemented in 2010 purposely provided to pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under the age of five. A National Social Protection Policy was also adopted in 2011, which will have a much broader coverage, including the informal economy. Trade unions have actively been involved in the reforms. The government currently plans to implement two pilot districts for informal economy workers, but it has not yet set dates for the start.

Sierra Leone constitute both the informal and formal sector of which the later is only absorbing 9% of the labour force. It was estimated in 2004 that the informal sector employs 2 million people (92%) of the economically active population, about half of whom are women. As in other least developed countries, Sierra Leone’s informal economy cuts across both the rural and urban informal 'sectors'. Among the country’s many informal 'sector' occupations, agriculture is the single largest sector employing about 70% of the rural population and is closely followed by wholesale, retail, petty trading and artisans activities. Other important informal sector occupations include mining, transport service, construction and services delivery workers, among others. A survey of businesses in the informal economy show that they operate informally due to licensing and tax issues, and lack of information. The majority of completely informal businesses are not well informed about the necessary steps to become fully formal. As demonstrated in the section Trade Unions, the SLLC has seen a massive increase in organizing self employed informal workers in the last couple of years, though not within the agricultural sector. The organization has     moreover provided training for the leadership of informal economy unions to develop a business and development plan as well as implementing conferences, seminars and workshops for informal economy workers and local authorities to enhance there respective skills, techniques and performance to be more effective and efficient.

GENDER PROFILE OF SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone has being making frantic effort with significant progress in addressing wide-range issues to mitigate the discrimination and vulnerabilities of women and girls. However, shortfalls persist such as; the willingness of girl child and women to enhance there intellectual capital in either formal education or vocational training programs,domestic violence and parents and guardians commitment to advise and direct the girl child in the positive path, lack of funding, logistics and inadequate personnel to undertake programs as well as the existence of legal frameworks that stumble the implementation of the gender-related structural changes.

Women are under-represented in paid employment in the non-agricultural sector, as well as in politics and public life. The Country has micro of its women indigenes who have catapult in the academic and professional cadre such as the likes of Dr. Zainab Hawa Bangura who's currently Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict at the level of Under-Secretary-General, retired Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, Madam Umu Hawa Tejan Jalloh  and Dr. Kady Sesay who has serve the country in the capacity of  lecturer, Minister and a running mate for a  political party and the list goes on. Notwithstanding that, Macro of the women are engage in tagriculture and rading activities with a concentration of them in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone(Makeni, Portloko, Lunsar, Kabala and Magburika etc) as well as does  doing business in “Abacha” Street Free town and also in some other Cities like Bo, Kenema, Moyamba and Kono etc. Moreover, women are at the end of a segregated labour market, even more so than many other West African countries, and in general not aware of their rights and lack education and resources. 

Trade unions have worked on gender equality on constitutions with a view to accommodating more women in union structures. It includes establishment of women's committees in the regions will enable women members to raise their concerns with the union leadership. Among others, it has been registered that the focus on HIV/AIDS under health and safety made it possible to address some issues of particular importance to women. Occupational Health and Safety training included dissemination of information on HIV/AIDS and distribution of condoms. The National Women's Committee remains vibrant.

For female in management and ownership, en Enterprise Survey reported that 8% of firms had female participation in ownership, considerably lower than the Sub-Saharan Africa's average at 29%, and that 17% of full time employees were women, which was also lower than the Sub-Saharan Africa's average at 24%.

TRADE AND TRADE POLICY IN SIERRA LEONE

Albeit to the global financial crises of 2008 and the ebola plague in 2014 which causes a set back reversal on growth engines, Sierra Leone has been improving in its import and export trade there by demonstrating the effectiveness of its trade policies and reforms.Trade is one of the Country’s economic engine has become a significant indicator in the country's economy, with an accelerating expansion in exports of about 34% of GDP. There is also a geometric expansion on Imports estimated as 36% of GDP. In the past years, the vast majority of export went to the European Union (EU), but has recently dominated by China due to China’s trade expansion in Africa fostering the Sino-Africa Trade cooperation. Cacao beans followed by aluminium ore and glass bottles are the majority of Sierra Leone’s export products.The Country is endowed with many natural resources such as; diamonds, iron ore, rutile, boxite, gold, etc. Cash crops, mainly cocoa production, are more labour intensive productions. They are projected to increase.

More foreign companies, in particular from Europe and the USA, are investing in the extracting of natural resources, which can generate as many as 25,000 new jobs. Diamonds miners are in the artisanal sector operate largely informally, are not regulated and have no written agreements with their employers. A review estimated that there were between 120,000 and 200,000 artisanal diamond miners. The value of official exports would be much higher were it not for smuggling. The national control mechanisms have been extremely weak, and diamond smuggling has been substantial, perhaps even bigger than legitimate exports.

Trade agreements Sierra Leone is part of the Economic Community of the West African States. The treaty from 1993, which was revised in 2005, contains labour provisions with cooperation regarding harmonization of labour law and social security, promotion of women’s, youth and professional organizations, and consultation of the social partners.

Sierra Leone is in the 2000 Cotonou Agreement on development cooperation between EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, which reaffirms commitment to International Labour Organisation's(ILO’s) Fundamental Conventions and includes provisions on cooperation on various labour and social issues.

Since 2002, Sierra Leone has benefited from the United States’ African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is a generalised System of Preferences (GPS). It allows duty and quota free access for some products. Sierra Leone can be removed from AGOA, if the United States deems that Sierra Leone among other human rights issues do not seek to uphold the ILO Core Labour Standards and have acceptable minimum wages, hours of work and occupational safety and health.

The Export Processing Zones (EPZ) in Sierra Leone has starting to open up for companies. In 2011 the first fruit processing plant went into production and has been expected to employ 80 workers, earning between 80 euro a month for loaders and fruit sifters and 300 euro a month for more skilled workers. This area is relatively virgin though there's an opening up to to encourage new companies to participate.  

Below are some of the measures regulators and authorities in Sierra Leone put in place to increase Trade:

-Business environment improvement implementing reforms in four(4) key areas such as; starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering properties and trading across borders

-  Institutional and legal innovations and creativity with a focus on development of the Companies and bankruptcy Act and Investment promotion Act which gave rise to the setting up of the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency(SLIEPA) as the key gateway and source of information.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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  • China's Move in Deepening Poverty Alleviation 2016-12-2 21:05

    财神: Sure, i will be waiting for that. How china alleviate poverty from the nation? what are the main tools that lead a nation towards prosperity? i wanna  ...
    You are welcome, will surely do. Cheers

  • China's Move in Deepening Poverty Alleviation 2016-12-2 14:36

    Kabisco751: Thanks boss, indeed will surely include some of  those tools/formulas adopted but that will be in the part 2 of this Article. I deliberately left that ...
    Sure, i will be waiting for that. How china alleviate poverty from the nation? what are the main tools that lead a nation towards prosperity? i wanna see some stuffs from you. good luck.

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