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Employment statistics are considered extremely unreliable because the national agency responsible for their collection, the National Institute for Social Security, has limited resources. The latest available published figures from 1984 showed 1.1 million employed in the official economy out of an employable population of about 15 million. A breakdown of the persons employed had almost 800,000 workers in the private sector and the remaining 300,000 employed in public administration. Teaching was the largest single component in the public sector with 200,000 employees, and the mining conglomerate Gécamines was the largest single corporate employer with a work force of roughly 37,000.

Skilled industrial labor was in short supply and often workers had to be trained by individual companies. Salaries were generally low, but employers were required to provide a variety of benefits, including medical care, family allowances, transportation, and sometimes housing and subsidized food. Termination of an employee was a difficult procedure.

Incomplete statistics make detailed analysis of employment patterns difficult, but several generalizations can nevertheless be made. A large part of the population stands outside the formal economy and ekes out a living by subsistence farming, informal trade or barter, or smuggling and other illicit activities. Women are severely underrepresented in the formal economy; by some estimates, only 4 percent of formal-sector employees are women. As a result, they have recourse in large numbers to the informal economy.

Although the population rose from 16.2 million in 1960 to 34 million in 1989 and to 39.1 million by 1992, total formal-sector employment remained about the same in the early 1990s as at independence; increases in the labor force were probably absorbed by an increase in the number of subsistence farmers. A lack of new jobs in urban areas would imply a high urban unemployment for the growing populations of the cities (Kinshasa alone added 2 million inhabitants from 1960 to 1984). One estimate placed unemployment in the mid-1980s at 40 percent for Kinshasa and as high as 80 percent for other cities. Only mining towns had unemployment at lower figures.

The government encouraged foreign employers to minimize the number of expatriate employees. As an investment matured, the number of foreign workers was expected to diminish. The government controlled foreign labor through a tax on expatriate salaries and issuance of work and residence permits.

The National Union of Zairian Workers (Union Nationale des Travailleurs Zaïrois--UNTZA), the country's only official trade union until mid-1990 when independent trade unions were legalized, was in reality a branch of the MPR (see Interest Groups , ch. 4). UNTZA employed 1,000 full-time staff members and claimed to represent all Zairian workers. Disputes were settled by a government order that labor and management agree to settlements that were usually compromises between their respective demands. Union militancy was rare. UNTZA rarely, if ever, called strikes. Any work disruptions that occurred were outside the context of the union.

Mobutu's April 1990 announcement that the country would make a transition to a pluralistic, multiparty political system ended UNTZA's role as the nation's sole trade union, although it remained the most influential union in the early 1990s. Subsequently, some twelve trade unions sprang up, all officially recognized by the government, representing various political constituencies, political parties, and industrial sectors. To protest low wages, trade union pluralism led to more frequent strikes as well as other demonstrations against the government. By 1992, for example, the public-service system had virtually ceased to function. Most public employees, including hospital workers and teachers, were on strike to protest lack of payment by the bankrupt government.

Data as of December 1993

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