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Zimbabwe’s army of job seekers face desperate times as formal employment has shrunk so dramatically that the rate is inching towards single digit percentage.

In a country where neither one’s education or work experience counts for anything, job seekers are seizing any opportunity that comes their way.

Because of the desperation for jobs, many people are falling prey to bogus employment agencies who take aantage of their situation to swindle them of the little cash they have in return for opportunities that never materialise.

An employment agency is an organisation that matches employers to employees.

In most countries, there is a publicly-funded employment agency and multiple private businesses which act as employment agencies.

Locally, most job seekers were used to applying for jobs at the Public Service Commission, which is the employer for government workers.

For those who did not wish to be employed in the civil service, applications were sent directly to their preferred employer.

Owing to the economic downturn, such job opportunities are now too few and in between.

In fact, jobs are being secured on the basis of who you know. Those without the right connections are at greater risk of falling prey to bogus recruitment agencies that dangle tantalising promises of finally landing a decent job.

Following the economic upheavals of the past 15 years, job opportunities have shrunk significantly.

This has forced many people to opt for self-employment as the formal market can no longer absorb graduates coming out of the country’s tertiary institutions.

Statistics indicate that less than 900 000 people are in formal employment out of a population of over 13 million.

Many blame the government for not doing enough to reverse the economic contraction, which has resulted in serious unemployment.

Section 20 (1c) of the Constitution instructs that the State must take reasonable measures to ensure that youths “are afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment”.

And yet in Zimbabwe it is now each man for himself and God for us all.

Qualified people whose education and experience would, not so long ago, have guaranteed them a decent job, have been reduced to paupers with nothing to show for it.

In its election manifesto, the ruling ZANU-PF had pledged to create 2 265 million jobs.

And because 83,5 percent of the unemployed persons are youths, the party’s campaign message had resonated well with this generation.

Sadly, the promised jobs are still nowhere to be seen.

Economic analyst, John Robertson, said it is sad that thousands of people are failing to get jobs after completing their studies.

“We have at least 300 000 school leavers every year. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe is exporting a very large number of these young people out of the country because they need to look after their families,” he said.

Robertson said the situation was exacerbated by the alarming number of companies that are downsizing or closing shop.

This has precipitated the proliferation of illegal employment agencies that are capitalising on the desperation of the jobless.

Under normal circumstances employment agencies should assist job hunters ease their plight.

In a way, they should be agents of economic development by facilitating employment generation. But alas!

Most of the recruitment agencies are doing the exact opposite of what they claim to stand for.

The bulk of them hoodwink desperate and unsuspecting job seekers into parting with their money in the hope that they will be assisted with securing employment.

At the end of the day, the job seeker is left poorer than heshe was before heshe applied for the job.

For applicants to be considered for a job by the agencies, they are normally required to provide certified copies of their qualifications identity documents passports, medical and police clearance certificates plus a non-refundable registration fee which averages US$130.

These agencies will accept as many clients as possible to maximise on the non-refundable deposit.

But once the deposit has been paid, it is the last time a job seeker will hear from them.

Investigations by the Financial Gazette revealed that some of the agencies are not registered with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare as is the requirement.

Section 114 of the Labour Act, states that employment agencies must be registered and: “No person shall – (a) conduct an employment agency or (b) charge or recover any payment or reward for or in connection with the procurement of employment through an employment agency unless that employment agency is registered under this Act. No person shall hold himselfherself out as conducting an employment agency, unless that employment agency is registered under this Act.”

With business seemingly lucrative for employment agencies, the industry has been invaded by many unregistered organisations.

These have left in their wake, broken hearts.

Tatenda (not his real name), applied for a job through one of the many agencies in Harare and was called for an interview in which he was “successful.”

He was told to pay US$100 and upon paying the money, he was given a form to list three different jobs in order of his preference, a development he said raised his suspicion for the first time.

“I actually applied for the position of an administrative officer. So I did not see any reason why I had to fill in three other jobs on the form having been told that I did well in the interview,” he said.

To allay his doubts, Tatenda said he made an enquiry from one of the staffers of the recruiting agency who simply told him to go by the instruction on the form. But that was to be the end of it.

“Upon completing the form, we were told to expect the final invitation from the contracting company which never came. Countless visits to the agencies office failed to yield any positive result,” he lamented.

An official from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare said detecting a fraudulent employment consultant is not difficult.

“One major way of identifying a fraudulent job consultant is his or her interest in money. A consultant who predicates your chances of getting a job solely or largely on money you are ready to pay is a fraud.

“All an employer needs in an employee’s ability to deliver. But if anyone tells you that what matters is your money it is better you leave the person and search elsewhere,” he said.

Source : Financial Gazette