Jan 14, 2009, 5:28 AM
Baboucarr HM Jallow, Minister of Trade and Employment, has said that while The Gambia has enjoyed a stable economic environment with an annual growth rate of 6 percent, unemployment remains a key concern to the government.
As a country, he said, The Gambia has been trying to focus attention on employment creation, and to bring innovations in addressing issues of unemployment and under-employment.
"The issue of acute unemployment has great consequences in the drive towards reducing poverty," he added.
The Trade and Employment Minister, was speaking at the validation workshop of the National Employment Policy and Action Plan 2010 -2014, held at the Paradise Suites Hotel on Tuesday.
"Putting The Gambia on a development and employment- absorbing growth path is a long-term challenge, which we will need to tackle together with a shared vision," Mr. Jallow said.
There is a need to boost the long-term labour absorption capacity of the economy by reducing the disruption caused by structural change, halt the institutional impediments to employment creation and accelerate the progress towards a sustainable, all-inclusive, labour absorption growth trajectory, Minister Jallow stated.
He maintained that "the development of a comprehensive Employment Policy and Action Plan is fundamental in our efforts to promote employment and to rid the country of poverty, in line with Vision 2020."
According to the Trade and Employment Minister, in order to address the growing unemployment and poverty situation, several projects and programmes were designed and implemented by the government, donors, the private sector and NGOs that have employment generation as an objective.
The latest being the Gambia Priority Employment Programme (GAMJOBS), which was the government's major intervention to operationalise the National Employment Policy and National Employment Action Plan 2003 - 2008, in response to increasing unemployment and poverty in The Gambia, particularly among women and youth.
He revealed that in 2009, a total of D16, 145,061 was disbursed for institutional support to skills providers, skills training, business capital, promotion of labour intensive technologies and entreprenuership training.
Although all the above interventions had had a positive impact on employment, a review of the past National Employment Policy 2003-2008 and Action Plan indicated that not enough jobs are being created, and the conditions of workers still needed further attention, he pointed out.
"Provisional results of a labour force survey conducted by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS) in 2008 estimated that the unemployment rate in 2008 was about 6.7% of the labour force for persons 16 years and above as compared to 5.8% in 2003 for the same age category," he said.
"This, therefore, denotes that there is marginal increase in jobs," he stated, adding that the report outlined that employment in the agricultural industry, the largest employer, had increased only by 1% during the period 2003-2008.
Furthermore, the report noted that unemployment among women is still high. "Provisional figures shows that the percentage change in employment for women from 2003-2008 registered an increase of only 18%, compared to 31% increase for men during the plan period," he further noted.
Carlos Murillo, the Spanish Deputy Head of Mission said that it is a known fact that unemployment is quickly becoming the main economic problem in many countries because of the pinching global financial crisis.
"Even when compared to other countries in the continent, the Republic of The Gambia is still performing rather well in this area. An extra effort must be made to modernise the local labour market by increasing the capabilities of the Gambian workers, with special attention to women and youth," he added.