We are in New York for the New Year and planning our return soon to Congo. We head first to Kinshasa and soon after John will head for the Lomami watershed 1600 km away. I, though, will spend much more time in Kinshasa: writing reports, talking to ministers, buying malaria cures and cans of tomato paste to send east. Thank goodness Kinshasa is an interesting place, actually it is rather puzzling.
For instance, only 4.8% of the working-age population has employment. So how do the rest of them make it?
That statistic is from a recent study of Kinshasa (UNDP study 1997-2001) and really bothers me. What is more the figure includes the Informal Sector, such as market merchants selling at open stalls.
I don’t believe it.
First, how vast is the working-age population?
- The population of Kinshasa is 7.5 million.
- Half the population is under fifteen years of age and another 2.5% is over 64 year of age.
- So, about 3.5 million Kinois are of working age.
- If it is true that fewer than 5% are employed that leaves 3.2 million unemployed. Those are the parents of the 3.75 million children all of whom must be fed.
I just don’t believe it.
If most Kinois workers are not in the informal sector then they are in the “sub-informal” sector. Here is my idea of the job pyramid.
FORMAL SECTOR includes government, companies and otherwise registered employees.
INFORMAL SECTOR still pays “tax” to the state.
SUB-INFORMAL SECTOR is everywhere but remains “invisible” to the state.
Sub-informal export economy to Congo Brazzaville flourishes at all the tiny ports. This white mineral clay is sought after by pregnant women, and is sub-informally mined, processed and shipped over in near darkness on small dugouts.
UN-EMPLOYED SECTOR ??
Maybe this fellow taking a nap by the roadside is unemployed or, more likely, just done-in by the sub-informal work of heavy-lifting at the Congo docks.