Decent work in construction and the role of local authorities the case of Bulawayo city, Zimbabwe
AbstractThe role of local authorities in promoting decent work is little understood and has been absent from both policy and practice (GIAN, 2005). The purpose of this interdisciplinary study was to identify and describe the existing and potential roles of Bulawayo City in fostering decent work in the construction sector, urban development and related services through policy making, strategic planning and project activities. The study outcomes will contribute to the shared knowledge among local authorities and other stakeholders at the local and international levels. Bulawayo is Zimbabwe’s second largest urban settlement with a 2002 population close to 700 000 i.e. 6% of the national population or 20% of the urban population (CSO, 2002:21), a budget of Z$619 million in 1993/94 (Ndubiwa and Hamilton, 1994), Z$2.5 billion in 2000 and Z$797 billion in 20051. The research team collected national and local level secondary data on decent work variables with a view to compile decent work indicators to help compare Bulawayo City against national and global conditions. Such data was sought from the Central Statistical Office (CSO), the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), employer and worker organisations, construction firms, research institutions and Bulawayo City itself. Key informants in all these institutions were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire and grey literature related to decent work was identified and collected where feasible. While Zimbabwe is not ‘statistics poor’, statistics collected from the institutions cited above are not in formats suitable to answer descent work questions. The political-economic crisis in the country and in particular the government’s frosty relations with the UK, the EU the USA and the white Commonwealth (GoZ, 2005: 25c), have compounded conditions of insecurity for most institutions and individuals; making even the release to outsiders of routine administrative information for research purposes a sensitive affair. Increasingly, key informants were not prepared to release information unless there was a direct financial benefit to themselves or their organisations. It is in this context of economic crisis and tense relations that some in the west have expressed doubts regarding the accuracy of employment, economic and population statistics; alleging that these are manipulated to suit the ruling party. Further, high population movements and the ‘informalization’ of the economy since mid 1990s have left significant socio-economic activities outside the data frameworks of institutions such as the CSO and NSSA. Thus lack of informal sector data is the main limitation of this study. The above obstacles not withstanding, the study compiled reasonable information with detailed data on the social security, social dialogue, health and safety and Bulawayo City’s efforts at strategic planning and local economic development. The term ‘decent work’ was neither known nor used by a majority of the key informants in this study. In general, while the statutory provisions for decent work promotion are sound, in practice the economic crisis has compromised efforts to create and stabilise employment, has poisoned the climate of social dialogue, eroded the value of pensions and benefits and heightened the risks of accidents at work. Except in its areas of direct jurisdiction, Bulawayo City has not played significant roles in promoting social dialogue and social security - issues that are the domain of national authorities. But it has been exemplary in its strategic planning efforts, partnerships, promotion of equality and indigenisation, employment creation, training and education. Employment conditions in Bulawayo are characterised by an acute economic climate that has led to decreasing numbers of jobs since the 1990s in many sectors including the construction sector. The informal sector which had created many jobs during this period is struggling to survive and was disrupted by the 2005 government operation to clear informal enterprises and settlements.
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