Working Conditions And Wages In The Tourism Sector In Tanzania Case Study Of Mount Kilimanjaro Porters

1.0. Introduction and Background  

The United Republic of Tanzania is among the poorest countries in the world. The effects of the high level of poverty and poor social conditions are illustrated by social indicators such as life expectancy and mortality rate. Along with increases in foreign direct investments, the booming tourism sector had been one of the major driving forces of economic growth in the country. By 2006, the sector contributed as much as 16% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and was categorized as the most vibrant sector, with increasing opportunities for job creation. This partly explains the rapid increase in service employment, which accounts for about 20% of total employment in the country. An overwhelming majority of workers are working in the agricultural sector, but their proportion to the workforce has rapidly decreased in recent years (from 82.1% in 2001 to 76.5% in 2006). Employment in the industry sector has increased to 6.4% in 2016, from about 4% in 2006 according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics. Based on the 2014 Integrated Labour Force Survey, three quarters of paid and self-employed employees in non-agriculture have informal employment (76%), mostly in the urban sectors. The proportion of self-employed people in the urban sector almost doubled between 2001 and 2006. (Tourism concern, 2009), with a great number working in the tourism sector.

The Tanzania tourism sector according to the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, 2014, generated around USD 2 billion which constitutes 25% of Tanzania’s foreign exchange earnings, and contributes 5.1% of total GDP, 2014. The sector directly employs 600,000 people and up to 2 million people indirectly.

Majority of the workers this study targeted within the tourism sector included Porters, cooks, cleaners, gardeners, drivers, security guards and cruise ship workers around the mountain Kilimanjaro trekking. These workers often work under poor working conditions, with a poor pay, working long hours, lacking formal contracts and vulnerable to dismissal without warning or compensation. Tanzania, which is a tourist hub also faces the challenges of the seasonal unemployment in the tourism sector which is subject to the fickle whims of the global tourism market, natural disasters and in recent years the terrorist attacks. Which leaves the sectors workers without formal/proper contracts to go several month without pay. Some hotels forbid their employees from joining a union; union leaders are frequently harassed and imprisoned; while some repressive regimes to align themselves with the tourism companies have been banning unionizing altogether in the sector. (Tourism concern, 2009).

1.1  Methodology

In this study has been both qualitative and quantitative. First an extensive literature review of wages and working conditions in tourism sector in Tanzania with a case study of porters trekking Mount Kilimanjaro was conducted, and second approach of the study was to examine wages and working conditions for porters working at Mt. Kilimanjaro through interviews to a number of porters from trekking outfits, Tour operators who hire these porters and a survey of tour operators in Arusha region was conducted based.

2.0 Country context and labour legislations

2.1 Country context

Occupational health and safety services in Tanzania are a multi sectorial entity with many players, Government Ministries, Employers Workers, NGOs CBOs and private individuals. The earliest occupational health and safety legislation in Tanzania dates back to the Factories Ordinance CAP 297 promulgated in1950 and become operational from January 1952. This legislation laid emphasis on the on the protection of workers health in factories which left most sectors uncovered by the then rudimentary occupational health and safety services as stipulated therein coupled by other inter-sectorial legislations that complemented the Factories Ordinance. The management of occupational health and safety falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry responsible for Labour matters through the Occupational Safety and Health Authority for protecting the labour force and working environment. Due to, mainly, non-compliance of ILO basic Conventions and limited scope of the Factories Ordinance, together with its obsolete provisions and all-encompassing new legislation i.e Occupational Health and Safety Act , 2003 has widened the scope of understanding, coverage and recognition of roles played by the responsibilities of other public and private institutions.

2.2 labour legislations

Under the Employment and Labour relations Act 2004, employees may work a maximum of 45 hours per week, and 9 hours in any day. Overtime payment is legislated as one and a half times the basic wage. In reality, however, working hours are polarized between very long and short hours (workers working short hours tend to be, effectively, underemployed). For instance, 63% of workers are working more than 50 hours per week (Figure 3), while another 28% are working fewer than 30 hours. Only rather small minorities of workers are working ‘standard’ hours: between 30 and 50 hours.

3.0 Working Conditions and impacts

It is said that 8% of the global workforce is employed in the tourism sector. Though, widespread poverty, lack of opportunity, a heavy dependence on tourism to generate income plus weak adherence to international labour standards creates productive grounds for the exploitation of workers at the bottom of the tourism supply chain in countries all over the world. Children and women are particularly vulnerable to abuse, including sexual exploitation and harassment. (Tourism concern, 2009).

Some of the issues affecting working people in the tourism industry in Tanzania (in this case porters) rage from unfair wages, long working hours, qualification and skills requirements for porters, inability to join trade unions mostly due to part time employment and the fact that employers in the tourism sector are hash to unions, the issue of outsourcing labour by some tour operators has been met by resistance by the unions in Tanzania. In early 2016, the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) raised the issue with the government to resolve the problem as many local workers had been displaced from management positions in big tour companies. Tourism workers often do not earn a living wage and are dependent on tips and service charges they get from their clients (tourists).

In a study conducted by the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), over 2000 porters were surveyed regarding their working conditions and it was revealed that only 20% of local tour operators running Kilimanjaro climbs pay the mandatory wage set by Tanzania National Parks and Tanzania Association of Tour Operators(TATO) (Tourism Concern,

2009). This has left workers unable to support their families adequately and their general health destroyed given the long working hours by the nature of the jobs they do. Although the Ministry of Labour and Employment has established an inspection system in the tourism sectors, it has not been successful. Labour inspectors have been bribed and in most cases they do not have the equipment and tools to carry out their work effectively.

In January 2008, the government established a new minimum wage standards for eight employment sectors, where hotel workers were the lowest paid at a rate of Tshs. 65, 000 ($35) per month. “It is simply unacceptable for tour operators to profit from illegal and exploitative practices and then refuse to acknowledge their legal and ethical responsibilities” (Tourism Concern). Although trade unions in the country have voiced their concerns regarding the poor working conditions in most sectors in the country including the tourism sector, I must say not a lot has been done to improve or reverse the situation. Instead some civil society organizations like Tourism Concern have taken the lead to campaign to improve the rights of porters and to increase public awareness of the inhumane working conditions in the following trekking regions: Mount Kilimanjaro, (Tourism Concern, 2009).

The tourism sector in Tanzania is characterized by lack of information and if there is any, it is little and conflicting information about the rights of workers (porters). The Tanzania National Parks Authority does not have a policy to address trekking ethics or proper workers (porters) treatment. Furthermore, the government has not established policies and guidelines to address these human and labour rights issues in the sector. 

4.0 Conclusion and recommendations

Currently conditions faced by the workers (porters) at the Kilimanjaro trekking offers little hope for fair labour conditions. If tourism is to move forward towards a more sustainable future and be truly equitable in providing more sustainable employment, there is a need for the government of Tanzania to reduce the uncertainty surrounding the sustainability of the tourism sector, through development of policies and invest in longer-term tourism planning with specific criteria for adherence. Government policies must also set the framework to lead the private sector and set dialogue meetings between stakeholders. The trade unions need to get more involved in the sector to push for the improvement of the working condition of the workers. The government through the Ministry of Labour and Employment must outline clear criteria to be followed by tour operators and set up an efficient monitoring mechanism to maintain quality standards.  

5.0 References

Dodds, R. & Joppe, M. (2005). CSR in the Tourism Industry, The Status of and Potential for Certification, Codes of Conduct and Guidelines. Washington, D.C.: CSR Practice, Foreign Investment Advisory Service, Investment Climate Department, 61 p.

Nelson, F. (2004). The evolution and impacts of community-based ecotourism in northern Tanzania. International Institute for Environment and Development 131. Community Based Conservation Network. Sandy County Foundation.

Newark, W.D., & Nguye, P.A. (1991) Recreational impacts of tourism along the Marangu route in Kilimanjaro National Park. In Conservation of Mount Kilimanjaro, IUCN Tropical Forest Programme.

Lovett, J. C., Midgley, G. F., & Barnard, P. (2005). Climate change and ecology in Africa.  African Journal of Ecology, 43(3), 167-169.

Tourism concern (2009), “Porters in Tanzania (from Http://

Zara Tours (2009, May 30). Mount Kilimanjaro Porters’ Society, News from Zara Tours, (email communication)