Were More Cameroonians Employed in 2016 than in 2015? The Figures do not add up.




Were More Cameroonians Employed in 2016 than in 2015? The Figures do not add up.

  Gwain Colbert, thecolbertfactor

Claim: ‘….as at October 2016, 320 000 new jobs were recorded, representing an increase of nearly 20% compared with the previous financial year’; President Paul Biya, being an excerpt of his 2016 state-of-the-nation’s address last December 31, 2016

Accuracy of claim: Pants on Fire-The statement is not correct and makes a ridiculous claim

In his address to the nation last December 31, 2016, Cameroon’s Head of State, Paul Biya had this to say: ‘The main objective of boosting our energy capacity and extending our road network is to create the best conditions for our country’s industrialization. This is our majour challenge for the coming decades. It will also confirm the positive employment trends observed in recent years. For instance, as at October 2016, 320 000 new jobs were recorded, representing an increase of nearly 20% compared with the previous financial year’.

Going by the President’s declaration, he was out to confirm that Cameroon’s economy was on the upward trend and that more and jobs were being created as years went by. Yet, the President was caught pants on fire as he went ahead to state in unequivocal terms that: ‘Given the overall gloomy economic situation, this performance is commendable’. This is nothing short of doublespeak or better still, the ability to hold two contradictory views at the same time, and believe in them. That is how he could also go ahead to urge Cameroonians to roll up their sleeves in the following words: ‘However, we should do better. To this end, we must improve the management of all economies of our sub-region’.

Employment Figures of 2015/2016 Compared

On December 31, 2015 this is what President Paul Biya had to say about employment situation in 2015: ‘I must also mention that the growth made it possible for our economy to generate 337 660 new jobs as at end November 2015, against 283, 443 the previous year. I am pleased to note that 1, 175, 358 jobs have been created from 2011 to 2015’. Although economists and opinion leaders did not approve of his 2015 youth employment figures as they equally appeared to have been concocted, it is clear that contrary to claims made by the President, 2016 never registered any increase in job creation. The figures speak for themselves. The year 2016 noticed the creation of 320 000 jobs, down from 337 660 in 2015. This signaled a recorded drop of 17660, not an increase as announced by Cameroon’s President.

Why 2016 Could not Record a 20% Increase 

Cameroon’s economy in 2016 was characterized by layoff and mass retirements. In its desperate need to raise the much-needed funds to fight the Nigerian Boko Haram sect, government virtually taxed Cameroonians out of business. Insecurity and Boko Haram insurgents’ activities in Northern Cameroon forced many businesses to close down. Emergency contracts and jobs in Cameroon’s Northern regions were mostly carried out by the civil engineering wing of the military.

In trying to explain how President Paul Biya might have gone wrong in thinking that 2016 recorded a 20% increase in new jobs creation, John Mbah Akuroh, economic journalist and publisher of the renowned The Times Journal, volunteered the following assessment to my questions:

‘In the past three or so years, Biya has added an invention to his speeches, that of revealing the number of jobs purportedly created by his government in the course of the year ending. Only at this level, pundits have generally been unanimous that his figures do not add up because they are not broken down according to sectors. This time, however, the President…failed to take a look at the figures of last year before putting another imaginary one for 2016. This is how after placing a figure that showed a drop in job creation, the President went ahead to hail himself for a so-called 20% rise in job creation, whereas the 320 000 he mentioned as at October fell short of the figure [337 660] of 2015….’

One does not need to be an economist or statistician to know that the figures President Biya advanced for job creation in 2016 recorded a marked decrease of 5.2% rather than an increase of 20% as he stated in his speech.

How President Paul Biya Counts the Number of Jobs Created

Pierre Nka, World Bank consultant  and economic journalist working with Le Quotidien de l’economie, volunteered to give insights to thecolbertfato on how Biya counts the jobs created. The Cameroon job market specialist wonders what bases and methodology the Cameroon government uses to calculate and come up with the number of jobs created per year, given that Cameroon is a country that has no history of record keeping. He went ahead to demonstrate in triumphant detail that the job market in Cameroon ‘was not only an invisible one but that there was no modern institution that centralizes job offers and the number of persons employed’. That alone raises questions as to how the President came up with the figure of 320 000 jobs created in 2016.  His declarations were corroborated a sources at Cameroon’s Ministry of Employment and Professional Training who said that the figure advanced by President Biya was far above what the Cameroon job market could offer. The same source also went ahead to confess government’s inability to track down the exact number of jobs created or lost per year in Cameroon. Interestingly, an Inspector General in the same Ministry who refused to be named revealed that President Paul Biya simply extrapolated on figures the ministry presented to him given that by October 31, 2016, the ministry could only boost of 318 398 new jobs created rather than 320 000.

Graph indicating the job creation curve since 2014

 How the Ministry come up with such figures? The Divisional Delegations collect and forward figures to the Regional Delegations who in turn transmit to the national level. Here, the Ministry proceeds to identify the number of jobs created through the public investment budget and those created by structured private companies. Take the example of job creation in 2016 in the South West Region. The Public Investment Budget led to the creation of 1 123 jobs in Fako Division, 1 316 in Manyu Division, 522 jobs in Meme Division,  800 in Lebialem, 350 jobs in Kupe Muanenguba and 258 jobs in Ndian Division. During the same period, statistics showed that some 750 jobs were created in the South West region by the private sector.

The agency that provided the highest number of job market figures that were presented to President Biya was the National Employment Fund, FNE. This government agency facilitated the creation of 34 313 jobs in 2016, with 36 independent jobs and 25 935 salaried jobs. Some jobs counted amongst those created in 2016 came from the Forest and Environment sector as well as from Agriculture, Youth and Civic education agency and the military. Youths who were still undergoing training in the Armed Services training centers were counted among the 320 000.

Temporal workers were not left out some 6 642 were counted. In the South West and Centre regions youths who were recruited for the construction of stadia for the 2016 female African Nations Cup also added up to the figures. Interestingly, expatriates who were hired through Calls for Tender in Cameroon Tribune also made up the figures. Persons hired by the local councils to do repair works on earth roads also worked their way into President Biya’s 2016 job creation figures.

Employment statistics for 2016 as provided by the Cameroon Employment Ministry

Informal Sector Excluded from State Statistics

Despite the fact that 0ver 60% of Cameroonians are in the informal economy, government statistics on job creation does not take into account the contribution of that sector. Coupled with the fact that people take home critical wages from the informal sector that compare favourably with the structured private and public sectors, their efforts are still not documented in Cameroon. Interestingly, government agencies charged with gathering employment figures ignore this sector that greatly contributes to reducing spiraling unemployment in Cameroon. What is the use of considering manual labourers at a government construction site, house helps of administrators, drivers, and other temporal workers in government ministries and agencies and not considering workers of the informal sector?

Posted 20th January 2017 by thecolbertfact

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