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Happy International Labour Day 2019

Uganda will on 1st May 2019 join workers around the world to celebrate the International Labor Day in Agago District. 

This day is commemorated in appreciation of the contribution of workers to national development but also used to raise both national and international consciousness on the importance of promoting and protecting the rights of workers. The theme for this year’s celebrations is: “Promoting employment through enhanced public infrastructure investment”.

Platform for Labour Action (PLA) is a national civil society organization that was founded in 2000 by a group of women activists. This was in response to the absence of an appropriate voice to address the rights of vulnerable and marginalized workers. PLA’s target groups are vulnerable, marginalized workers, majority of who are women, youth and children. This includes children in exploitative forms of work, children at risk of exploitation, vulnerable and marginalized workers.

According to the report of the National Labour Force Survey (NLFS) 2016/17 published in 2018, Uganda’s labour force is about 9,332,000 people. Labour force refers to the sum of the people in the working age population (14-64 years) who are actively engaged in the labour market as employed[1] or unemployed persons[2].

The NLFS further shows that of the 9,932,000 people in the labour force, 8,973,000 people are employed and 959,000 are unemployed. This represents an unemployment rate of 9.6 percent. It follows therefore that 90.4 percent of the labour force is employed. Whereas having 90.6 percent of the labour force employed is noteworthy, it is not a signal for Uganda to rest on her laurels.

The NLFS 2016/17 shows that that time related underemployment was 11.6 percent and income related underemployment was 45.4 percent. Furthermore, only 34.5 percent of the employed persons were in wage employment, only 3 percent were employers; while 52.8 percent and 9.8 percent were own account workers and contributing family workers respectively. This implies that about 62.6 percent of the employed persons are in vulnerable employment which is the sum of own-account employees and unpaid contributing family employees. Besides, 84 percent of the employed persons outside agriculture are in the informal economy.  

The above situation signifies the need for more jobs.

Employment Creation interventions by Government of Uganda

It is widely accepted that investments in infrastructure can lead to direct and indirect jobs, and usually have spillover effects into other economic opportunities by almost 50 per cent. The long-term effect is the provision of quality infrastructure, which has an important impact on access to basic services such as education, health, clean water, and sanitation, improved transport infrastructure also can facilitate more trade through access to markets, jobs and other economic activities.

Some of the strategic interventions by governments that facilitate job creation include:

Conducive working environment for workers and investors;

Enforceable regulatory framework;

Education and skills;

Infrastructure development; and

Investment in national peace and security; among others

The relationship between Infrastructure Investments and employment

Adequate infrastructure is a prerequisite for sustainable economic growth and social development. Indeed, it is very difficult for any country to industrialize without a sufficient stock of productive infrastructure in power and transport services that allow firms to thrive and compete regionally and internationally.  In line with the foregoing, NDPII identified a number of flagship infrastructure projects whose successful implementation would have economy-wide impact including employment creation and also provide the impetus for achievement of middle-income status by 2020. 

The Government of Uganda is already implementing some of these flagship infrastructure projects. These include: Karuma Hydro Power Plant (600MW), Isimba Hydro Power Plant (188MW)[3], Ayago hydro power plant (600MW), Grid Extension in North-East, Masaka-Mbarara Transmission Line, Kabale-Mirama Transmission Line, Standard Gauge Railway, Entebbe Airport Rehabilitation, Kampala-Jinja Expressway, Kampala Southern by-pass, Kampala-Bombo, Express Highway, Kampala-Mpigi Express Highway, Upgrading of Kapchorwa-Suam Road, Kibuye Busega-Nabingo.

Each of these infrastructure projects has its primary development objectives. However, these projects also contribute to the creation of employment in the country. Unfortunately, not all people appreciate employment impact of these infrastructure projects. 

some of the challenges in the labour/workforce that Uganda still grapples with

  • The limited or lack of knowledge of labour laws by both employers and employees which made the realisation of workers’ rights a challenge.
  • Poor enforcement of labour laws including occupational safety and health standards in places of work was weak due to shortage of labour inspectors.
  • Some of the employers do not have wage structures that consider the grading of workers in accordance with their qualifications, experience, job descriptions and pay. Wages for casual labourers were considered to be meagre as compared to the work done.
  • Lack of facilitation for labour officers to attend to workers’ complaints that were reported. Consequently, some complaints remained unresolved
  • The tax burden is high as Government taxes employees’ meagre income, allowances, and gratuity.
  • Limited funds (transport and logistics) are allocated to the labour officers to effectively train, sensitize and disseminate information on labour laws, rights and responsibilities


  • Enforcement of laws and policies in place-- The Government of Uganda should fast truck the review and amendment of the Employment Act 2006 to address the glaring employment challenges/defects that Ugandans face at the workplaces.
  • Sensitization of employers and employees on the existing labour laws and policies
  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development gives the international community the impetus it needs to work together to tackle the formidable challenges confronting humanity, including those in the world of work.
  • Embracing technology that support both efficiency and high employment impact of infrastructure projects should be encouraged;
  • Pushing for social safeguards in infrastructure projects including promotion and protection of workers compensation and social security

In conclusion, the ongoing government efforts to implement the strategic infrastructure and industrial projects identified in the National Development Plan II should be sustained through increased resourcing. Public investment in infrastructure may appear to be crowing out investment in other sectors, how it is a prerequisite for realizing the growth and employment across the economy.

Happy International Labour Day 2019


[1] Employed persons are those of working age (14-64 years) who are interview engaged in any activity to produce goods or provide services for pay or profit.

[2] Unemployment refers to a situation where a person is without work, is seeking for work and available for work

[3] The project was ccommissioned by H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on 20th March 2019

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Platform for Labour Action (PLA) is a National Civil Society Organization that was founded in the year 2000. PLA is focused on promoting and protecting the rights of vulnerable and marginalized workers through empowerment of communities and individuals in Uganda.

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