UNPRECEDENTED unemployment and grinding poverty stalking Zimbabwe’s urban poor families has left many contemplating migrating to the rural areas where life is generally cheaper, a poverty watch pressure group has said.
Findings from a basic needs basket assessment conducted by the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT) in low-income families from six cities revealed that residents were caught between unemployment and the liquidity crisis, which left them without disposable income.
PRFT programmes co-ordinator Tafara Chiremba said life in cities was becoming more expensive that many indicated they would prefer relocating to the rural areas, the opposite of what was the norm where rural to urban migration spawned by job hunting increased pressure on social amenities in cities.
“Because of the deteriorating economy, poverty has increased in urban areas,” he said.
“Previously, people would come to the city looking for ‘greener pastures’, but now it’s a different situation altogether because of urban hardships.
“Few can now get all the basic needs in their groceries monthly.”
Chiremba said life in urban areas was increasingly mirroring that of the rural set-up, as people had to fetch water from distant sources and use firewood for cooking.
“With urbanites doing some things done in rural areas like fetching water at boreholes, going to the grinding mills and urban agriculture, people now see rural areas as better, as most now have cellphone signals, electricity and clean water,” he said.
“There are no jobs in the cities, something that attracted the rural youths.
“The majority of the urban population is suffering.
“Without jobs, many more men are following the great trek outside the country in search of jobs, leaving wives and children behind.”
Presenting his 2015 national budget in 2014, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said in 2011, 2 130 companies closed and 19 191 workers lost jobs.
In 2012, 1 464 companies shut down, leaving 20 825 employees jobless.
In 2013, 878 companies closed shop rendering 14 499 jobless and in 2014, 134 firms shut down throwing 9 280 people out of work.
Information from the Retrenchment Board reveals that at least 6 960 workers were retrenched last year, with further job losses expected at nearly 40 companies currently undergoing either judicial management or liquidation.
Chiremba said urban women and children bear the brunt of the economic hardships, as some families go on one meal a day in town to cut costs, as they cannot get salaries that match the poverty datum line.
According to Zimstat’s website, the poverty datum line for a family of five for January stood at $500.
“Workers still lucky to be employed are living from hand to mouth, as salaries are squeezed between food, school fees, paying rentals, water and electricity bills,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions says about seven companies closed shop in the last three months, pushing the number to 141 from January 2014 to date‚ an indication that the economy is imploding.