The Situation of Commercial Farm Workers after Land Reform in Zimbabwe

Gender and employment patterns after reform

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3.3 Gender and employment patterns after reform

Data from farm worker households show a steady decline in employment and access to housing and services on the farms. The overall decline amounts to 34 per cent among permanent male workers, and a much higher drop of 45 per cent among seasonal male workers (field interviews, October-November 2002) . This may be compared with a study carried out in the first quarter of 2002, which showed a decline in permanent workers of 25 per cent in Manicaland, 32 per cent in Mashonaland East, 40 per cent in Mashonaland West and 79 per cent in Mashonaland Central. There has been a pronounced trend towards bigger job losses among seasonal workers who, by virtue of their status, have less secure sources and opportunities of income. However, if the household data is broken down by gender, it becomes clear that job losses have been greater among both permanent and seasonal female workers. Some 51 per cent and 55 per cent of permanent and seasonal female workers respectively have lost their jobs. This may be compared with 30 per cent and 33 per cent respectively for permanent and seasonal male workers.

Land reform has therefore had a differential impact on male and female workers, with female workers much worse affected. Some female seasonal workers belong to households headed by male workers; others do not. It would appear that male workers have somehow held on to the few remaining jobs on the farms at the expense of female workers. The impact of job losses on women has been profound, especially because a large proportion of them are single or single parents, widowed or separated (see Chapter 1).

A similar picture emerges from household data on the numbers and proportion of workers living on farms. There has been a drop of nearly 40 per cent in the proportion of permanent workers living on the farms, and 31 per cent in the proportion of seasonal workers who do so. The smaller decline among seasonal workers is addressed in Chapter 5, which considers the changing forms of employment and social relations. When the household data are broken down by gender, they show that a much higher proportion of female workers, both permanent and seasonal, have left the farms. There has been a decline of 63 per cent and 42 per cent respectively in numbers of permanent and seasonal women workers living on farms. This reflects the higher job losses among them. The limited scope of this study did not allow investigation of where those farm workers have gone and how they currently survive. But this remains an important topic for further research.

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