Workers suffer serious stress, hardships: study

Eric Chiriga

ZIMBABWEAN workers, particularly low-level employees, are going through serious stress and hardships due to the prolonged economic downturn. A survey of personnel managers and directors carried

out by Human Resources (Pvt) Ltd this month reveals that Zimbabwe’s working populace is struggling under myriad problems and anxiety emanating from the ailing economy.


“Extreme levels of difficulty and stress are apparently being experienced both amongst managers and low-level employees,” David Harrison, a director at Human Resources, said.


Harrison cited foreign currency shortages, high inflation and other wide-ranging problems, as some of the factors heightening uncertainty over business survival.


“The major problems listed by those interviewed include worries about company viability in the absence of foreign currency and in the face of continuing inflation and difficulties in negotiation with employees and their representatives,” Harrison said.


Employees have been demanding salary and wages increases in light of the high inflation rate.


Zimbabwe’s inflation, which reached a record 620% in January last year before declining to 122%, has begun rising again and now stands at 144,4%.


However, Harrison said many respondents felt that demands for higher wages threatened business viability while employees didn’t see higher wage levels as posing a threat to jobs through company closures.


Local companies are facing serious viability problems mainly due to the shortage of foreign currency to import raw materials, the high cost of borrowing and skyrocketing operational costs like electricity charges.


The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s foreign currency auction is equally starved, resulting in a high rejection rate for bids.


The auction can only allot a weekly amount of US$11 million, way below the required amount of more than US$100 million.


Harrison said contrary to the day-to-day conversations with human resources professionals, Aids-related issues were mentioned by approximately 80% of those interviewed.


“We are not allowed to tell people when we know they have Aids,” human resources managers who were interviewed said.


They said absenteeism from work was frequent and understandable but very costly for companies.


During the survey, problems arising from manpower shortages were frequently mentioned.


A huge number of Zimbabwe’ s skilled manpower have left the country for greener greener pastures in neighbouring countries and mostly the United Kingdom.


“A huge number of needed persons have been attracted by greater security and better lifestyles in South Africa and further a field. Zimbabwe employees tend to be popular in other countries,” the interviewed managers said.


“We have much difficulty in finding accountants, technically skilled persons and surprisingly junior managers with suitable potential.”

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