How Ugandans could position themselves into decent work

Jun 27, 2019

With approximately 600,000 new entrants into the job market every year, the demand for jobs was getting even higher and yet the new openings in the job market remained unyielding.

During the recent budget reading for the Financial Year 2019/2020, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Hon. Matia Kasaija highlighted that the increased rate of unemployment, income inequality and living unhealthy lifestyles had topped the development challenges distressing the country.
With approximately 600,000 new entrants into the job market every year, the demand for jobs was getting even higher and yet the new openings in the job market remained unyielding.
He further stated that 4 out of 10 young Ugandans were out of work which creates a burden to the national economy and the households. 
This is further curdled by the quality of the jobs available to absorb the high unemployed rates which has left most Ugandans stranded between a rock and a hard place.
However, in the bid to address some of these souring income inequalities in both rural and urban areas, the President of the Republic of Uganda at the same event retaliated and gave hope for Ugandans in the informal sector after he disclosed that 13 SACCOs of specialization including taxis drivers, welders, market vendors, produce dealers, tailors, mechanics and local councils would be formed in the next Financial Year to  avail startup capital to these groups to establish gainful business.
This is not to mention the deliberate increased budget appropriation towards the private sector activity, services sector, and agricultural growth in the next financial year.
This came at a time when there were already similar group formations/associations for instance; the newly formed City Boda Boda Riders, Kampala Metropolitan Boda Boda Joint Leadership Forum, the Street Vendors Association, Market Vendors Association and the recent inaugurated Domestic Workers Association (DOWA) among others, all geared at strategically seeking decent work and opportunities.
The most obvious benefits from the above associations customarily would be the acquisition of potential contacts, social protection and partnerships that are mutually beneficial. But also, provision of like-minded individuals and forums to share ideas, strengthen ties, and find lead-ins.
Besides, these relations could also be used to conceivably influence pro-people legislations and call for the amendment of the outdated laws that can no longer tackle the different sectoral work-related challenges through lobbying lawmakers and swaying public opinion to positively demand for improved service delivery and decent working environments. 
Nonetheless, the Constitution of Uganda and the Labor Unions Act, 2006 empowers workers to form/join unions to negotiate for staff Terms and Conditions of Service which is commonly known as collective bargaining to ensure safe and health working environments as well as improved wages.
Occasionally, the Small and Medium enterprises have made use of the collective agreements relating to the terms and conditions of employment between one or more labour unions or one or more employers to ensure that the rights of the workers are upheld.
Currently, Uganda has over 44 labour Unions at the helm of labour issues who can ably tackle employment disputes that workers could make use of. Take for instance, the recent 370 workers of the Uganda's first Marijuana Company that were fired over the UGX 110 billion loss.
This may not necessarily mean that such employers should not take such peculiar decisions but most times, these employees are not duly prepared and at worst, they are never accorded their obligatory terminal benefits as it is stipulated in the law.
But since there is still a gigantic information gap on the rights, roles and responsibilities of both employees and employers, work places end up with chockfull and stoppable disputes.
Even though the youth and the women have had special consideration through the Youth Livelihood Fund and the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme respectively, this has not largely solved the unemployment among these special interest groups since where these programmes have been rolled out, the women and the youth with disabilities and those with terminal illnesses such as HIV and AIDS have not been targeted which marginalizes them further.
Last but not the least, as much as some Ugandans especially the young people have taken advantage of the new window of employment in the labour migration in  the Middle East, we still have folks that have fallen victim of the looming trafficking practices, partly because of their lack of information on trafficking in persons, safe migration and the licensed external labour recruiters but also the preference of some potential migrant workers to deal with unscrupulous individuals.
This has escalated cases of trafficking and violation of human rights in this sector; and yet, this would rather have been a lucrative undertaking to improve many people's livelihoods and certainly contributed to the wobbling Uganda's economy.
The writer is the Advocacy and Communications Officer-Platform for Labour Action


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