Experts call for competitiveness
As workers commemorate World Labour Day, the competence and productivity of people employed in the various sectors remain a growing concern in Uganda. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the Ugandan labourforce is estimated at 9.8m people, of who 53 per cent are females.
It also indicates that about 75 per cent of the labourforce is below 40 years and yet 30 per cent of the total labourforce is illiterate. An estimated 77 per cent workers have education below secondary school level.
This means that the majority of the individuals who enter the labour market do not have required skills leave alone being aware of the labour laws. Mr Bernard Mujuni, a legal specialist, calls for robust labour administration and competitiveness involving strengthening administrative systems, and personnel to promote labour standards. He says this will promote increased productivity.
Mr Mujuuni says labour productivity and competitiveness should match the infrastructural development. “There should be a deliberate effort to skill and re-orient the critical human resource necessary for delivering the desired industrial growth,” he says.
As a way of enhancing the competiveness and productivity of the labourforce, the government has come up with a new 10-year programme dubbed “Skilling Uganda”. To Ms Jesca Alupo, the Education and Sports minister under whose docket the programme falls, the initiative should be supported by all Ugandans as learners will be trained in competencies and competiveness as opposed to theory. In addition to students, she says the initiative also targets people who are already working and in self-employment.
Dr Gideon Badagawa, the executive director of Private Sector Foundation-Uganda, says the private sector is working out modalities together with institutions of higher learning to provide industrial training and apprenticeship opportunities.
“To that effect, we have presented a proposal to the government to incentivise the companies and organisations that take on students for industrial training and apprenticeship with tax exemptions,” says Dr Badagawa.
He stresses that the overall objective of this all-round training programme is to give confidence to the employers that the kind of people they are going to employ will not jeopardise their operations.
“Some companies are skeptical about employing young and inexperienced people because they think they will burn down their factories due to poor handling of machines. So, we want to expose these young people to the real practical world,” he says.
In the region, studies show that Kenya’s labourforce is the most skilled and competent, a reason why Kenyan nationals are aggressively taking on jobs that should be done by Ugandans mainly in the areas of tourism and hospitality, IT, manufacturing, among others.
What the government says
Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana says the government is doing everything in its mandate to enhance the competence of the labourforce through collaborative efforts with other government departments and stakeholders.
“Of course this is the major outcry everywhere, with employers and regional markets saying our people do not have employable skills let alone the right work ethics and attitude,” he says.