No data on private sector employees – Minister

No data on private sector employees – Minister
Minister of Labour, Public Service, and Human Resource Development, James Hot Mai in his office (photo credit: courtesy photo)

The Minister of Labour, Public Service, and Human Resource Development James Hoth Mai has revealed that the government has no proper data on the number of employees working in the private sector.

Hoth said his ministry has embarked on what he termed as “labor market assessment” to know the number of all the employees in the private sector.

“In the private sector up now, we don’t know the number of the people working in this country. We have finished with the banks and hotels but we have not reached the NGOs,” Hoth said.

He made the statement during a graduation of vocational skills training at Daughters of Mary Immaculate [DMI] College in Gureyi yesterday.

“We don’t have the data collected but soon we shall reach all the offices of the NGOs so that they can provide us with the data on the number of workers they have employed,” Mr. Hoth said. 

However, he emphasized the importance of the private sector, adding that it will help the government by creating more employment opportunities for citizens.

Hoth said it was important for the government to know the number of workers that have been employed.

Concerns arose in 2020 about the increasing inequality in the employment opportunities for the locals and foreigners in the country. The government moved to inspect the operations of both locally and foreign-owned companies with particular consideration to their payrolls.

A senior official from the Ministry of Labour, Public Service, and Human Resource Development said the government has been informed of companies operating at par with the stipulations enshrined in the South Sudan Labour Act 2017.

In November 2020, the Minister of Public Service Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro said the implementation of the Labour Act was long overdue.

Bakosoro, who vowed to reduce the rate of unemployment in the country in May, also castigated South Sudanese employees for being ignorant over the content of an Act that empowers them.

Bridging the gap

A hotel resident who spoke to The City Review anonymously said government officials from the office of the labor inspectorate often stormed the accommodation premises without notice and asked the management to produce the paysheet.

“They came abruptly and demanded to have a brief meeting with all employees before proceeding to ask for the payroll,” he said. 

“The hotel manager was hesitant to produce the document because the pay gap between local and foreign employees is alarming.”

Under Chapter 2, Section (8) Sub-sections (1) and (2) of the Labour Act, every employee is entitled to equal remuneration for work of equal value, and the employer is tasked to ensure that this law is enforced. However, most companies have fallen short in their implementation.

Organizational payment disparity forms part of Chapter 2, Section 6, which regards the unequal pay gap among employees as a form of discrimination.

“For this section, discrimination includes any distinction, exclusion, or preference with the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation, based on national extraction, tribe or place of origin, marital status, and family responsibilities,” reads sub-section 3.

The systemic inspection of companies’ policy documents, the source says, would cascade from hotels to business companies and international Non-governmental organizations.

Chapter 3, Section (28) Sub-section (4), empowers the labor inspectorates to freely, without notice, enter a business or company’s premise and search for and examine books, documents, objects, or substance they reasonably believe to be relevant to the investigation or other function they are conducting.

Another senior official said the government also learned of companies recruiting foreign employees without work permits in direct contravention of the Labour Act.

Section (46), Sub-Section (3) (b) of the Act adopted in 2017 requires foreign employees to possess valid working permits.

It is not just about payment and work permits. At some companies, cases of sexual harassment have been reported. In August, Ecobank said it consented to the Ministry of Labour to publish names of staff perpetrating sexual harassment as reported by local media.

“No person shall sexually harass an employee or an employer. This shall be an offense against an employee and which by its nature has a detrimental effect on that employee’s job performance or satisfaction,” the Act reads.

In a previous interview with The City Review, Jame David Kolok, Executive Director at Foundation for Democracy and Governance said the Ministry of Labor was not doing enough to ensure employment rules and regulations are implemented to safeguard local employees in the country. 

“One of our biggest challenges is that our institution that is supposed to govern issues of labor and recruitment seems to have no effective mechanisms in place to safeguard the employment or even safety of the nationals,” Kolok said.

He also added that lack of conformity to provisions of employment policy has given the upper hand to foreign private sectors to hire people of their choice.

Despite the increase in the number of graduates following South Sudan’s independence in 2011, Kolok said most graduates were denied jobs by employers based on a false premise of lack of qualification.

“If you look at boda-boda riders on the streets, some of them are graduates but they can’t get a job,” Kolok added.