Mozambique - An Overview of Women's Work, Minimum Wages and Employment

An Overview of Women’s Work and Employment in Mozambique. Minimum wage, wages, labour employment, unemployment, women employment, working conditions, Labour market structure, Legislation, Labour relations, Literacy, Literacy and skill levels of female labour, etc...

Decisions for Life MDG3 Project Country Report No. 1

University of Amsterdam /Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS)
Maarten van Klaveren, Kea Tijdens, Melanie Hughie-Williams, Nuria Ramos Martin
Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 2009


This report provides information on Mozambique on behalf of the implementation of the DECISIONS FOR LIFE project in that country. The DECISIONS FOR LIFE project aims to raise awareness amongst young female workers about their employment opportunities and career possibilities, family building and the work-family balance. This report is part of the Inventories, to be made by the University of Amsterdam for all 14 countries involved. It focuses on a gender analysis of work and employment.

History (2.1.1). After Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal in 1975, a civil war seriously frustrated the country’s development. After the first free elections in 1994, strong economic growth on a free-market base created room for combatting notably rural poverty. International donors have especially been supportive of Mozambican projects for women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming. From 2004 on, the process of pro-poor growth seems to stagnate. Though income inequality is relatively low, the country remains one of the world’s poorest.

Governance (2.1.2). Mozambique for the last 15 years has had a rather stable political record. Though in the 2000s government planning focuses strongly on governance, the country’s record here is mixed. The formal justice system remains inaccessible to most of the poor, which works disadvantageous for women. Domestic violence and discrimination against women are widespread.

Prospects (2.1.3). Mozambique may escape the worst effects of the current financial crisis, as it is relatively insulated from its direct effects. The main risk arises from the country’s dependency on development aid.

Communication (2.2). Over 3.3 million cell phones are already in use, one to each six Mozambicans. Internet coverage is still low, with in 2007 about 1% of the population as users. Radio is the most utilized medium, though male access to radio broadcasts is 1.5 times higher than female.

The sectoral labour market structure (2.3). In 2002-03, nearly 90% of the economically active women worked in agriculture. Of the other 430,000 women, about 160,000 received a wage. The share of women in wage employment in non-agricultural sector was nearly 20%.

Legislation (2.4.1). Mozambique has ratified the core ILO Labour Conventions, and its laws are non-discriminatory. Some steps have been taken to guarantee compliance. The 2007 Labour Code lays down rights to paid maternity leave, equal pay, vocational training, etc.

Labour relations (2.4.2). Overall union density in the formal sector can be estimated at 20%, and female density at 17%. The two union confederations, OTM-CS and CONSILMO, are ITUC affiliates. Enforcement of labour laws is often inadequate, weakening union positions at company level. ITUC reports notably file complaints over women receiving lower pay than men for work of equal value.

The statutory minimum wage (2.5.1). A system of yearly uplifted national minimum wages exists for various sectors, varying from 105 to 206% of the average wage in the formal sector. The minimum wage is reported to be widely ignored.

Poverty (2.5.2). According to UN estimates, in 2000-06 90% of the Mozambican population lived on USD 2 or less a day. Though in its early stages judged successful, the government’s poverty reduction strategy seems to stagnate in the 2000s, especially in the rural areas. Poverty distribution is heavily gendered, with female-headed households as most vulnerable group.

Population and fertility (2.6.1). In recent years the population growth rate has fallen, to 1.8% in 2008, corresponding with high infant and child mortality as well as high HIV/AIDS prevalence. Yet, the total fertility rate (5.2%) and the adolescent fertility rate (155 per 1,000) remain high.

HIV/AIDS (2.6.2). The Mozambican HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is, with 16%(2005), high. Both because of their level of infection (a 22% prevalence rate of women aged 20-34) and their position of carers for sick family members, the burden of HIV/AIDS falls mainly on women. Orphanage is a huge and even growing problem, and ruins the prospects in life of many girls.

Women’s labour market share (2.6.3). With 83% in 2007, the overall labour partication rate of the 15-64 of age (LPR or EPOP) is comparatively very high, and with 89% for women even higher. In 2002-03, about 160,000 women were in wage employment, about 18% of all employed in the formal sector.

Agriculture (2.6.4). Agriculture provides employment and income for 80% of the Mozambican population. Female-heads of households in rural areas prove to be particularly constrained, both in time and in income sources.

Maufacturing (2.6.5). Prioritising mega projects has frustrated the development of a small-scale manufacturing sector in Mozambique, which has been detrimental for women’s employment.

Commerce (2.6.6). The expansion of small-scale commerce has recently been hampered by legal problems. Formal retailing is expanding, which may open up perspectives for female wage employment.

Services (2.6.7). Commercial services have been growing considerably in the 2000s. Shortages of skilled labour, envisaged for various professional services, may open up opportunities for young females if the capacity of local secondary and university education can be expanded.

Government (2.6.8). Female participation in civil service seems to lag behind, which seems to do with practices favouring (married) men both in hiring and in payment.

Literacy (2.7.1). In 2006, the overall literacy rate for adult women was an estimated 36%, just over half men’s rate. The 2007 the literacy rate among young women was 48%: though low in international perspective, a strong advance compared to a decade earlier.

Education of girls and young women (2.7.2). After a period of strong growth, the enrolment of Mozambican girls in primary education in 2006 reached 73%. Yet, with less than 15% girls’ enrolment in secondary education remains very low. The female share in higher education is very low too.

Female skill levels (2.7.3). In 2003, about 20,000 of Mozambican female employees were highly skilled and 160,000 skilled. We estimate the current size of the target group of DECISIONS FOR LIFE for Mozambique at about 70,000 young women in wage employment, while another 30,000 will enter into such employment in the next five years.

Wages (2.8.1). It has been estimated that skilled workers in rural areas earn about 20% more than unskilled workers. In urban areas skilled and highly skilled workers may earn about 50% respectively 100% more than unskilled. Collective agreements are highly segmented.

Working conditions (2.8.2). Little is available in writing on working conditions in Mozambique.

Indications of employers’ HR practices (2.8.3). A 2004 survey indicated that HR practices of larger firms remained personal, informal, but also topdown. The results showed a reliance on personal networks for recruitment and on informal training structures.


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