Vulnerable working households in Zimbabwe's segmented labour markets
Shopo, Thomas D.
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The report that follows is a response to a request for a case study of vulnerable segments of the labour market in Zimbabwe from the SATEP team of the International Labour Office in Lusaka. We should, perhaps point out at the outset, that we have faced some problems of interpreting the conceptual terms of reference that defined both what the vulnerable segments of the labour market were, and the most appropriate methodology for research that would have concrete policy implications. The terms of reference for the study defined "vulnerable segments" of the labour market as follows: (i) Relatively unprotected or under-privileged groups associated with large or medium-scale production (e.g. casual wage labour - daily or short-term; "helpers", disguised wage labour such as commission agents or sub-contracted home workers - "the putting out system"); (ii) Domestic service; (iii) Illegal and underground activities (prostitution, drugs, smuggling, various tax-avoiding activities.) The spectrum of social groups included in this definition of vulnerable segments , we found too diffuse for a strategic assessment of the contemporary labour market in Zimbabwe, as even within individual groupings, there is absolute, rather than relative impoverishment. In this respect, we therefore had problems with the methodology proposed in the I L O proposal for the study which asked us to review the different forms of work, discussing how each has arisen, with different production and labour processes and how they have evolved as economic changes and production levels have increased - looking at individual incomes within each group,* household incomes. Particular themes were to deal with included: - stability and reliability of income; - response of income in each group to recession, to economic growth, to various policy measures; - lifetime income patterns; - overall household incomes, where members are scattered across different production activities; - employment trends in different segments. With all due respect to the proposers, we are, however, of the opinion that such a methodology would not lead to an objective assessment of the basic causes of the vulnerability of working households in the Zimbabwean social economy and all that would be possible even given the maximum access to d a t a would have been a description of the manifestations and existing at degrees of differentiation . The very definition of these vulnerable segments was noted in assumptions about the historic nature of industrialisation in Zimbabwe; which we felt had to be empirically put to the test , if it was to be at all possible to demonstrate the basic structural causative factors of the vulnerability of working households, rather than individuals. Difficulties of interpretation have, in particular , arisen on the whole issue of how "work" is to be conceived in Zimbabwe, i.e. arriving at a conception of work that approximates more closely to that of the concrete social actors who find themselves vulnerable to impoverishment. We also felt that more important than beginning with a given set of ' target groups', it was more crucial to determine the issue of absolute vulnerability as opposed to relative vulnerability. In the study, we therefore attempt to tackle the question from such a structural viewpoint, that will facilitate an understanding of what can be termed as the basic causes of social vulnerability. For, despite the fact that Zimbabwe inherited , at independence a relatively industrialised economy, we are far from convinced that this has meant that that segment of the working population employed in a more capital intensive manufacturing sector suffers from relative rather than absolute impoverishment. The focus by the I L O on the "vulnerable segments of the labour market" however, provides a useful entry point into some basic research and policy issues about the origins of surplus value and capitalist accumulation, which are too often neglecteo in many a development planning exercise.
Additional Citation InformationShopo, Thomas D. and Moyo, Sam . Vulnerable working households in Zimbabwe's segmented labour markets: Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies, 117p.
Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies