This paper critically examines the employment problems, and the interventions, policies and programmes that deal with employment in Zambia, and how these are linked to the overall economic development strategy. On this basis, the paper recommends a new employment strategy framework. Broadly, this entails that Zambia must adopt a direct approach to employment promotion and provide for an institutional mechanism for coordinating various sector strategies on employment. Within this employment strategy framework, at least two broad sets of policies must be emphasised. The first should focus on raising both the output and the labour absorption capacity of the national economy, while the second should aim at strengthening the employability of labour. Specific interventions for promoting employment opportunities must prioritise attention to the informal economy, the situation of women, youth and persons with disabilities and the need for decent work and the mitigation of the employment impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Zambia is a signatory to the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that guarantees the right of every person to access employment. The Directive Principles of State Policy in the Zambian Constitution also mandate the state to "create conditions under which all citizens shall be able to secure adequate means of livelihood and opportunity to obtain employment". One of the fundamental tasks of the National Development Plan (NDP) should therefore be to stimulate sustained and high rates of employment-creating growth in the economy. Given the background of 'jobless growth' since the early 1990s in Zambia, it is clear that 'employment-friendly' policies have to be consciously built into the growth strategy with concerted political will and direction. More specifically, an integrated employment strategy framework which gives overall direction on the way forward is needed. This framework must be part of the NDP and must guide Zambia through the short, medium and long-term.