Cheap labour abound as jobs scarcity worsens

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Times are really hard. So hard that some people literally force you into giving them some odd jobs to do even for just a dollar.

Every morning, I get knocks from men and women wanting to either do garden work or do house cleaning and when you tell them that you have no money, they beg just to be paid a dollar.

Yes just a dollar.

I personally find it immoral to make someone do work that I know is worth much more than what these people will be asking for, but it would seem as though some residents have actually taken advantage of this cheap labour.

One woman paid two women $5 for harvesting a large plot of maize and collected more than 20 bags of maize cobs.

The women were back yesterday morning to shell the maize and they will be paid a measly $10.

Minimum wages stipulated by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) have been flouted, but the real fact is that no one has the money to pay those amounts because most people are jobless.

Zimbabwe has since been reduced to a vendor economy as at least 2 065 people lost jobs from January to date, the ZCTU said, as the economic slowdown threatens the existence of local companies.

At least 9 000 people did not return to work in January from the annual shutdown as employers failed to reopen. Some of the workers had gone for more than five months without being paid.

Last year, Zimbabwe recorded 9 617 job losses and 75 company closures.

Companies have lined up retrenchment programmes as they try to align their operations in the wake of depressed demand for products.

Company closures have reduced many families to beggars and taking up menial jobs to survive.

I have also noticed a trend in some residential areas where families no longer employ full-time domestic workers.

Families hire helpers on a daily basis who they pay at least $2 and for those that have small children, clubs have been formed where toddlers spend the day until parents come home after work.

These children are left with some retired elderly women, teachers or nurses, who take at least five children from Monday to Friday. These elderly women are paid at least $20 a month.

This is because full-time domestic workers have become a real burden for many families who themselves are struggling to make ends meet.

“A maid wants three square meals a day plus at least $100 or more in wages every month. I leave a loaf of bread every day and she eats lunch which she cooks and then joins us all for supper. I do not even eat breakfast and lunch and that is the main reason why I have done away with domestic helpers and gardeners because they are just too expensive,” a nurse who lives in the Westgate area said.

“Somehow, word travels like wildfire and I am inundated with people wanting to do the work for one-tenth of the wages I used to pay a full-time domestic worker.

“There is one who comes every evening who cleans the house and does laundry and I pay her $2 a day and that translates to nearly half of what I used to pay a full time domestic worker. I then do the ironing in the morning before I go to work,” the nurse, who refused to be identified, said.

And for those that relied on relatives and family, particularly those that live in the United Kingdom, new immigration rules have been set for foreign labour which may result in deportation of thousands of workers back to their countries.

According to the Guardian newspaper, non-European Union migrants who have spent more than five years working in the UK will be required to earn £35 000 per year or else face deportation, according to a policy that comes into effect in April next year.

The policy, announced in 2012 by the home secretary Theresa May, has been criticised this week by the Royal College of Nursing.
It predicted chaos in the health service, and urged the Home Office to add nursing to the list of occupations exempted from the rules and reconsider the salary threshold.

But nurses won’t be the only people affected by the changes. Migration figures published in May reveal migration for work from outside Europe rose by 24 000 to 68 000 in 2014, with nearly all coming on skilled work visas.

Thirty-five thousand pounds is a salary that won’t affect those working in finance or, for the most part, IT, but there are many other sectors with workers who will be forced to leave when the pay threshold comes into force.

For decades, settlement has been granted on the basis of length of time living in the UK, as well as pre-existing ties to the country. The policy is part of the government’s determination to reduce annual net migration.

This development will obviously benefit those migrants that have become official British citizens, but for the rest it means trekking back home. But what will be the implications for a country like Zimbabwe where there are no jobs to take on all these nurses and other professionals?

Will they also end up doing the $2-a-day jobs that most of the unemployed people are now engaged in?

Zimbabweans have endured a lot of suffering and I think it is high time new policies were implemented to attract foreign investment that will create employments for all these people.

It really is saddening to see university graduates languishing on the streets doing nothing. Some have become drug peddlers and a risk to the well-being of their communities.

For how long shall we continue running away from our problems because of issues that can be easily solved by our leaders?

No wonder some people have committed suicide because they are desperate, with no end in sight for their economic hardships.

Zimbabwe is a very sad story . . . a devastating narrative.