Regulatory, Policy Concerns in the Labour Market

In any country, the issue of labour is one of the policy areas that need serious regulatory attention to ensure and enhance social welfare, investment promotion and stable political economy. This is also true in Ethiopia. However, there are labour issues that need attention.

The first issue that should be addressed is redefining functional responsibilities. The number of employees governed by the labour law is increasing with the growth of the population and growth in the number of employers, usually in the non-governmental employment sector. Employment in the local and foreign private sectors is also finding new dynamics in the labour market as an additional legal employment regime. These labour issues basically involve standardizing various safety measures, undertaking labour inspections, resolving labour mediation issues, registration of trade unions and supporting them for their efficient performance as well as facilitating various forums with stakeholders on the labour issues. Policy research on the dynamics of the application of the labour regulations as well as taking further regulatory measures for emerging problems related to private and foreign employment agencies is also required.

All these issues definitely call for an independent institution or regulatory body solely dedicated to the efficient application of the employment laws. Since the organizational fusion of labour with the vast and complex regulatory responsibility has undermined the attention that should have been given to the labour related issues, dividing the functions of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs into two institutions is necessary.

The second issue that should be addressed is the need for a shift from traditional roles. Employment creation is always a concern for politicians in developing countries like Ethiopia since high rates of youth unemployment are always a critical danger to political and macroeconomic stability. The instabilities facing the country in the last three years are also strongly associated with youth unemployment.
We always hear the number of job opportunities created in some sectors. However, unless we manage to secure the sustainability of the created jobs, the problem of youth unemployment will continue to exist. Therefore, employment security should be an equally important concern. Stakeholders in the labour market, such as the labour federations, employers federations, chamber of commerce and sectorial associations, tax authorities, labour relation regulatory agencies and others should be concerned on the employment security issues.

When any business is closed, or downsizes its operations due to tax related or other reasons, the people employed will be jobless. Unlike other countries, trade bureaus and labour offices never produce periodic statistics of this effect, nor do they provide data based information. Because of this, stakeholders cannot get involve in employment security issues both as legal responsibility and social responsibility concern. Therefore, there has to be a permanent platform for stakeholders to collaborate and work on sustainable employment security issues, which is becoming a very critical problem in Ethiopia. When businesses are closed, there has to be a systematic investigation of the problem and provide support to the businesses going out from the market.

The final issue is addressing the limited influence of stakeholders on policy matters. Although there are various stakeholders in the labour market, their influence on policy matters is very limited, while their organizational culture to engage in such activities is almost none existent. In addition, the fear of political labelling was the other main reason for refraining from advocating fair labour practices. The ongoing political reform, however, is creating fertile ground to mitigate this problem and stakeholders should make themselves ready to identify, articulate and advocate the labour policy issues that need to be legislated and taken as key responsibility of regulatory bodies. The key stakeholders like the labour federations and the employers’ federation should organize themselves by conducting policy research and advocacy activities in order to effectively influence regulatory reforms.

8th Year • Apr.16 – May.15 2019 • No. 73

Abebe Asamere

Abebe Asamere holds an LLB in Law and BA in Political Science and International Relations from AAU. He was a member of the executive committee and pro bono legal advisor of the Ethiopian Consumers Protection Association for six years. Later on he became president of the Association for about a year. Since 2000, he has been working as consultant and attorney at Law. He was also teaching business law at the School of Commerce at AAU on part time basis for several years. Comments can be sent to or

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