Africa-Press – Botswana. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, Mr Jimmy Opelo, says job creation is not just an economic necessity but a moral imperative hence the need for stakeholders to work together to foster an environment that is conducive for sustainable employment.

Mr Opelo was speaking at the end of the two-day 2nd annual labour conference organized by the Institute of Labour and Employment Studies (ILES) a college wholly owned by Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) in Gaborone on Friday.

He said government’s commitment to the mind-set change agenda was unwavering as it was an important ingredient needed to drive job creation.

“This agenda, which emphasizes the need for a shift in perspective and adaptability in the face of change, will be instrumental in facilitating job creation,” he said.

He added that embracing a growth mind set, fostering innovation, and encouraging lifelong learning were at the heart of the mind-set change agenda.

Mr Opelo said to thrive in the new era of the fourth industrial revolution, there was a need to prioritize bridging the skills gap and place human potential at the forefront.

He said all stakeholders should ensure that the workforce is equipped with the necessary skills to navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by automation and digitalization hence investing in education and upskilling programmes was paramount to achieving this.

With reference to the conference’s theme: A just transition and decent work; Inclusive job creation approaches and effective labour market protection systems, he said the just transition setting was essential as it ensured that the economic shift towards sustainability did not come at the expense of workers and communities.

As a result, he said it was government’s commitment to safeguard the rights and well-being of all workers during the transition.

He however urged participants to take lessons learned and transform them into real-world solutions and advocate for just policies, support inclusive job creation as well as champion effective labour market protection systems while at the same time prioritizing human potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Earlier, when delivering a presentation on Employment Policy Frameworks and challenges in SADC, the Manager for Employment Policy and Analysis Programme from the International Training Centre, Dr Bernd Mueller, delved much in the National Employment Policies (NEPs). He gave a brief history of employment policies and outlined major challenges faced by the region where unemployment was concerned.

He said there was insufficient job growth to solve the region’s employment challenges. He singled out youth unemployment and working poverty as two crucial challenges not only in the SADC region but in Africa. Mr Muller said that National Employment Policies (NEPs) were insufficient to address these issues but a need for an integrated approach for pro-employment growth was needed.

“We need a shift in direction,” he said.

He said NEPs were important but implementation across governments was the real challenge. Therefore, he said, meaningful mainstreaming of employment in national development frameworks and economic policy was crucial. He advised governments to include employment targets in national budgets.

Deliberating on the Labour Market Protection Systems that improve the health and well-being of workers, a resident representative from Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Mr Thilo Schoene, said it was important to improve the well-being of workers as it was a moral obligation and a legal duty to care.

He said workers spent a third of their life at work so improving their well-being “is a must.”

Employers should allow for continuous learning and growth within the company and outside. He gave examples of what employers could do to improve workers’ well-being. One way to do it, he said, was for employers to consider preventive health care by availing ergonomic work equipment, medical checks, as well as the financial allowance for sport activities among many other activities that could be put in place.

As for governments, he said they could make social protection a constitutional right. The governments could create incentives for employers to adhere to, create educational leave days, make yearly free medical checks mandatory, provide subsidies for using sports facilities, subsidise pre-schools for working mothers and create places for public services employees as well as including free mental care in all public care facilities without referrals. Continuous external evaluation of policies was critical.

Besides, he said, the health and well-being of workers served as an economic base for any democracy.

Consequently, cordial relations of citizens’ not capitalistic exploitation was important.

ILES Executive Director, Mr Shandukani Hlabano, explained that the objective of the labour conference was to accord the social dialogue partners a forum where they could meaningfully engage on labour market issues.

He said the traditional social dialogue partners were government, labour and business but they have since included the academia and media who were not traditional members of social dialogue partners.

He said the involvement of their technical partners such as the ILO and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung made informative technical presentations to bring those issues that require experts to ventilate to the delegates.

He said the ILES as a labour and employment institute had a huge interest in labour market trends to study issues hence they organized the labour conference. However, he highlighted that at the end of the conference, they had learnt a lot and would follow up on recommendations made.

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