The informal sector must be recognized – The Zimbabwe Independent

People trained in the informal sector are as qualified or better than those who have undergone formal training.

The informal sector plays an important role in skills development among disadvantaged groups in Zimbabwe and should be recognized as an alternative training route for those who cannot access formal training.

Yet training in Zimbabwe remains tied to the formal education system. To be recognized as “trained”, one must have completed and obtained primary, secondary and higher education or training diplomas. Without this certification, one is generally not recognized as sufficiently trained or qualified. This is regardless of expertise or skill in a particular trade.

Formal training plays an important role in skills development in Zimbabwe, but it has serious limitations. For example, it is expensive and most families cannot afford the high tuition fees after the government stopped higher education subsidies in 2006 and 2011.

In addition, entry requirements to higher education institutions exclude learners with poor academic records. Secondary schools produce far too many students whose exam results are not good enough to enter university or college. In 2020, for example, only 24.8% of all O-level learners have passed at least five subjects required to enroll in a formal training institution.

My research questions the effectiveness of such exclusionary training. It highlights the plight of all learners excluded from tertiary education for different reasons.

Skills are empowering tools that the disadvantaged can use to fight poverty and inequality. Skills increase their chances of getting better jobs, which also improves their earning power and increases their self-reliance. This will in turn improve their food security, livelihoods and standard of living.

What future for young people who are denied the opportunity to acquire skills that change their lives and fight against poverty? I argue that since most of them end up in the informal sector, harnessing the benefits of sector training can be a positive step towards resolving this uncertainty.

Zimbabwe’s labor market is dominated by informal employment. In 2011, 94.5% of its active population worked in the informal economy.

The country’s formal education and training system is structured as follows:

Primary school

Ordinary level

Advanced level

Tertiary education (such as university, technical education, teaching, agriculture, vocational training, nursing, vocational colleges; offering certificates, diplomas and degrees)

Most learners do not go beyond the ordinary level. Statistics from 2019 show that only 13.5% of young people pursue post-secondary and tertiary education. Thus, although formal training is the recognized form of training, only a minority has access to it.

Professional skills

My research revealed that the informal sector plays a crucial role in the acquisition of professional skills. These include trades such as carpentry and joinery, metalwork, plumbing, construction and household electrical installation. Others repair electrical gadgets such as televisions, laptops, cell phones, and refrigerators. Some are proficient in dressmaking, shoemaking, cosmetology, panel beating, spray painting and restoration.

The research encountered highly skilled people who did not receive formal training, but who acquired their expertise by participating in the informal economy.

Some failed their high school exams while others could not afford college or university tuition and sought refuge in the informal sector.

After years of learning and perfecting these skills, they are as skilled or better than those who have had formal training.

The study involved talking to customers, most of whom expressed satisfaction with their products and services. They noted that in their experience, there was no real difference between products made by tradespeople with formal training and those that were informally trained.

Additionally, consumers also applauded their products, arguing that in most cases there was little or no noticeable difference between products made by informally trained people and traders with formal skills.

One example involved a builder who mastered construction skills by participating in informal construction work. He mastered a know-how in site preparations, foundations, masonry, masonry, masonry, decorations, plastering, skimming, painting, renovations, tiling and others. He could also handle large construction projects like churches, schools, and multi-storey buildings.

Without the informal sector, he would not have mastered these skills because he had dropped out of secondary school. He would not qualify for a tertiary education and would probably be unemployed.

This applies to many others in trades such as garment making, aesthetic therapy, restoration and carpentry who could not enter formal training institutions but were now highly skilled and experienced professionals.

Soft skills

People who participate in informal economy activities also learn many soft skills needed by both employees and entrepreneurs.

These include knowledge and thinking skills, planning, setting goals or objectives, basic numeracy, and market research. Other skills are literacy and computer skills, networking, interpersonal communication, negotiation and bargaining, teamwork, problem solving and decision making.

These skills are important on their own, but they also complement job skills. It is difficult for a person to thrive solely on professional skills without soft skills.

The informal economy is a rich hub from which these skills are acquired, maintained and honed. For example, the informal sector is a hotly contested space as entrepreneurs compete for business, and is also often criminalized by law.

Successfully operating in such environments requires negotiation and bargaining skills. Additionally, the highly competitive nature of the industry makes conflict inevitable. Entrepreneurs in the same trade often clash over customers and deals. However, because working together is unavoidable, they learn to resolve their conflicts amicably in order to continue working together.

Entrepreneurial skills

The informal sector also equips its participants with a range of entrepreneurial skills. In this context, entrepreneurial skills refer to the ability to conceive and exploit an idea for income.

Participating in informal sector activities exposes actors to complex situations that require them to acquire various skills. These include:

Project planning and management,

Delegation of work and tasks,

Build relationships through networking,

time management, budgeting,

Costing and Pricing,

Marketing and Advertising,

Leadership and decision-making, and

Customer service.

To boost their businesses, it is imperative for them to be innovative and inventive, creative, identify niche markets, marketing, leadership, risk-taking skills and the ability to raise, invest and manage money.

They also include the ability to be productive, to hire and manage people, and to identify new trends and niche markets. Along with soft skills, entrepreneurial skills complement professional skills and transform a person from a simple trader into a complete entrepreneur.

why is it important

The promotion of the informal sector as an equally important alternative training platform as well as the recognition and standardization of informally acquired skills will enable skill holders to participate in the mainstream or formal economy. They will have the chance to fight for formal jobs and tenders in the private and public sectors.

Since most of these skill holders come from disadvantaged backgrounds, recognizing their skills and enabling them to participate in the formal economy will play an important role in improving their life skills. – The Conversation.- Magidi is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Cape Town.

Related Topics

Comments are closed.