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Questions over labour ministry changes

Experts fear government’s decision to add the portfolio of sports to the Ministry of Labour, Youth and Manpower Development may compromise Malawi’s job creation agenda.

The experts question government’s basis for the change arguing that the ministry is perennially underfunded and that adding another portfolio would only serve to make it even more difficult for the country to improve its unemployment statistics.

In an interview after the changes were announced, labour activist, Luther Mambala, said the ministry [labour] is considered key to economic growth by most governments and is given dedicated staff and resources to oversee it.

Mambala was sceptical of the new arrangement working pointing out that the ministry is already under pressure to execute its core mandate of overseeing employment creation and adherence to labour standards.

“I don’t know what government’s basis is but adding sports to the ministry of labour does not look good in terms of employment generation. But they may have good reasons for the decision,” he said.

In a separate interview, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Hamilton Deleza, said the ministry has now become more complicated and that he foresees it becoming even more burdened to carry out its core mandate.

“The ministry is already supposed to be one of the biggest ministries in the country so adding another portfolio brings up a lot of questions,” Deleza said.

In an earlier interview, Deleza suggested that government needs to engage long term solutions to address rampant unemployment levels in the country. He said the community colleges agenda, which government has engaged to address youth unemployment through impartation of vocational skill, cannot serve to absorb all the youth left out of the job market.

But employers are optimistic that with adequate resources channelled to the restructured ministry, Malawi would still be able to advance both sports development and labour standards.

Executive Director of the Employers Consultative Association of Malawi, Beyani Munthali, said the employers do not foresee any challenges with the added portfolio but anticipates that the ministry will continue to work with other stakeholders in the labour sector as it has always done in the past.

“The Ministry of Labour and Manpower Development remains the same. The other portfolio will come with advantages and disadvantages, but we are looking on the positive side. We expect the ministry to have the capacity to oversee all its mandates,” he said.

When he came into power, President Peter Mutharika elevated the Ministry of Labour to be among his government’s priority ministries.

But experts have been blaming the government for not investing in the ministry enough resources to stimulate employment creation. Government allocated K9.7 billion to the Ministry in the 2015/2016 national budget, a large chunk of which will support technical and vocational training under government’s community colleges programme.

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