Labor Force

Labor Force

Before independence the economy employed a labor force of unskilled Angolans and trained Portuguese. Since independence there has been little change in the overall composition of the work force, although in the 1980s there was a shortage of both skilled and unskilled workers. Most foreign workers fled the country at independence, but some have returned as contract workers, called cooperants by the government. Many unskilled workers in the rural areas--primarily plantation laborers--migrated to the cities in the wake of the 1975-76 fighting and the exodus of the plantation owners and managers. In the 1980s, most of the work force, even in the cities, remained illiterate and untrained for work in the manufacturing sector. By 1980 the labor force still conformed to its preindependence distribution: roughly 75 percent of all workers were engaged in agricultural production, 10 percent in industry, and 15 percent in services.

Calling itself a socialist workers state, Angola was committed to protecting the rights of its workers and providing them with a reasonable wage. In the 1980s, all workers therefore belonged to the National Union of Angolan Workers (União Nacional dos Trabalhadores Angolanos--UNTA) and received a minimum wage. In addition, there were incentive programs at some factories, and UNTA promoted a "socialist emulation" program in which workers won bonuses for exceptional productivity. Nevertheless, the government has become dissatisfied with worker productivity, especially at the state-run enterprises, and has proposed to tie all wages to performance.

Foreign workers have also posed a problem for the government because of their high salaries and because they contradict the party's ideological commitment to the use of Angolan labor. The government, however, was forced to use foreign workers in many crucial positions after the departure of the Portuguese. These positions included those held by physicians, teachers, engineers, and technicians. Most came from Portugal, Cuba, Eastern Europe, Italy, France, Spain, Scandinavia, and Brazil. By 1984 the salaries of these foreign workers accounted for more than US$180 million, despite government attempts to force a reduction in this work force.

In pursuit of Angolanization (that is, the goal of having an upper-level work force that is at least 50 percent Angolan), in 1985 the government began initiating some training programs. In November of that year, it reached agreement with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) on a training program for Angolan financial analysts. The greatest success occurred in the petroleum sector, however, in which by the end of 1985 more than 50 percent of the workers were Angolans with some technical training. This success was the result of actions taken by the government and the National Fuel Company of Angola (Sociedade Nacional de Combustíveis de Angola--Sonangol), which employed about half of the workers in the petroleum industry, to substitute Angolans for foreign workers. The 1982 Angolanization law (Decree 20/82) established a special fund for training activities. Consequently, intensive training courses and seminars in the petroleum field increased from 66 in 1982 to 151 in 1985. Sonangol participated in financing various training efforts, including scholarship grants. Furthermore, Sonangol closely cooperated with Angolan universities to introduce fields of study related to the petroleum industry. In the early 1980s, two training programs, one for geologists and geophysicists and the other for petroleum engineers, were instituted in the schools of science and engineering at the University of Angola. At the same time, the university's school of engineering began an equipment engineer training program. The training of middle-level technicians was undertaken by the National Petroleum Institute, at Sumbe in Cuanza Sul Province; the institute's teachers and administrators were cooperants from Italy. The institute trained between fifty and sixty production specialists per year, some of whom were from countries belonging to the Southern Africa Development and Coordination Conference (SADCC).

By the beginning of 1986, the government claimed some success in its Angolanization program. According to the minister of industry, 44 percent of senior-level and middle-level management in industry were Angolans. Nevertheless, after the drop in oil prices in 1986, the government sought to reduce the number of foreign workers even further and enacted the Statute on the Cooperant Worker. This law established the principle that cooperants must train Angolan workers in their jobs and pay taxes based on Angolan labor regulations. To increase the ranks of Angolan workers, the government even encouraged the return of Angolan exiles who had formerly opposed the MPLA. These included former members of the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola--FNLA), the Organization of Angolan Communists (Organização dos Comunistas de Angola--OCA), and UNITA. The response to this encouragement has been somewhat meager, however, because of Angola's ongoing instability.

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