Publication - Working Paper
Over the past 20 years, the Zambian economy has been growing and its structure changing. However, most of the jobs which have been created recently have not been in the sectors where growth has been largest, such as mining and construction, but rather in various types of services. In parallel to these changes in labour demand there has been a large increase in school enrolment, particularly at secondary school level, and with this a fall in the proportion of the labour force with only primary education and a relative increase in those with post-secondary education. Despite the increase in the numbers of those with more education there exists the perception that the education system is not meeting the needs of the changing economy.
This paper investigates this issue using quantitative data drawn from labour market and firm surveys, as well as a series of interviews undertaken with business managers, industry representatives, and government officials.
The quality of the Zambian school system is poor compared to other countries within the region but despite this, on average, businesses in Zambia are unlikely to report that skills are a constraint for them and are unlikely to engage in their own training. Skills training requirements are heterogeneous across sectors and the returns to education differ significantly between sectors. Education beyond secondary school is associated with substantial premiums in the public sector and in private sectors such as mining and manufacturing.
In the long-term, any attempt to improve skills within the Zambian labour market will need to tackle the quality of primary and secondary school education. In the shorter-term, the post-secondary education system needs to better fit the students which are emerging from the school system and public training institutions need to collaborate more with the private sector to meet their specific needs.