Unemployment Rate Grows

Experts warn that some firms may be forced to shut down permanently because they cannot downsize their staff during SoPE


The surge of COVID-19 infections is exacerbating Botswana’s unemployment rate. According to a report compiled by Statistics Botswana, between Quarter 1 and Quarter 4 of 2020, the employed population for 15 years and above recorded a decline of 2.4 percent between from 751,798 to 733,875 persons. This happened mostly when there were lockdowns, bans on the alcohol and curfews to curb the spread of the pandemic.

In its recently released Labour Force Report for 2020, Statistics Botswana states that the decline was accompanied by a 5.4 percent increase of unemployed persons, from 226,598 to 238,731 over the period.

The government statistics agency further says formal sector employment went down from 492,914 in Quarter 1 of 2020 to 477,716 in Quarter 4 of 2020, a decrease of 3.1 percent.

“The youth labour force increased by 4.9 percent between Quarter 1 and 4 of 2020, from 485,554 to 509,195,” is says. “Youth unemployment rate went up by 1.9 percentage point over the period, from 30.5 to 32.4 percent.

Unemployment rate (persons aged 15 years and above) went up by 1.3 percentage, from 23.2 percent in Quarter 1 of 2020, to 24.5 percent in Quarter 4 2020.”

Meanwhile, Sethunya Sejoe and Kitso Mokhurutse of Econsult say the restrictions on retrenchments imposed under the State of Public Emergency (SoPE), which will end on March 31, have suppressed the level of unemployment from worsening.

“Although this may be good for employment in the short-term, some firms may be forced to shut down permanently because they are not able to downsize their staff, which, in the long run, will have a negative impact on both output and employment,” Econsult has warned.

Sejoe and Mokhuritse noted that unemployment was expected to rise as economic activity slowed down which is a common occurrence during global economic downturns. Econsult is owned by former Bank of Botswana deputy governor, Dr. Keith Jefferis.