12 September 2021

Trends of Labour market performance indicator in Rwanda(May 2021)

The COVID-19 pandemic and containment responses have exposed existing Rwandan society and its economy to the change in all aspects. Despite the risk of mortality people are also wearied by losing employment or tending to under-utilization

In May 2021 (Q2), the working age population (16 years and above) was around 7.7 million of whom 3,130,156 were employed, 959,574 unemployed and 3,588,517 out of labour force. The sum of employed and unemployed population results to population in labour force (4,089,730 persons). The proportion of working age population who were in the labour force increased to 53.3 percent in May 2021_Q2 from 50.6 percent in February 2021_Q1. The proportion of the working age population outside the labour force increased to 46.7 percent in May 2021_Q2 as compared to February 2021_Q1 (49.4 percent) and slightly declined as compared to the situation of February 2021

The employment-to-population ratio decreased in May 2021 (40.8 percent) as compared to February 2021(42.0 percent), to November 2020(45.1 percent) and became relatively lower than the one registered one year ago in May 2020(43.0). As a result of a decrease in both employment and increase in unemployment compared to February 2021, the labour force participation rate increased at relatively higher pace than the unemployment rate. It increased from 50.6 percent in in February 2021 to 53.2 percent in May 2021

Generally the number of employed population declined since August 2020. In comparison to May 2021, the total employment declined by around 2.3 percent from 3.2 million to 3.1 million of employed population. Services and industry sectors gained around 65 thousands and 70 thousands of jobs respectively while only the agriculture sector lost round 210 thousands additional employed persons. The important loss of employment between February 2021 and May 2021 in absolute terms happened in Agriculture (-210 thousands), trade and motorcycle repair (-35 around thousands) and among other services (-18 thousands) Other economic activities seems to record a job gain, mainly construction with 60 thousand, education with 41 thousand, Transport and storage with 33 thousand and public administration with 15 thousand.

In May 2021, the unemployment rate rose at 23.5 and has significantly increased as compared to the previous rounds of the Labour Force Survey. The unemployment rate increased by 6.5 percentage points from 17.0 percent in February 2021 to 23.5 percent in May 2021. The unemployment rate remained relatively higher among females (26.7 percent) as compared to males (19.9 percent).

Labour underutilization rate which accounts for unemployment, time-related underemployment and potential labour force was estimated to 59.8 percent in May 2021 and had relatively remained stable as compared to February 2021 (59.0 percent)  but remained relatively the same as compared to the November 2020. The labour underutilization rate was remarkably higher among females (67.1 percent) as compared to males (52.5 percent).

The observed decline in labour market and non-labour market activities in both May 2021 and February 2021 may be mainly attributed to the effect of movement restriction between different districts and the lock down in the city of Kigali as preventive measures against Covid-19 spreading happened in February 2021 during the data collection period.


These results provide evidence of the positive performance of the labour market of Rwanda during the last three years as well as the strength of the labour force survey as measurement instrument, even though the pace was hindered by the Covid-19 pandemic.


In February 2021, the unemployment rate stood at 17.0 and has declined as compared to the previous quarter. The unemployment rate declined by 3.3 percentage points from 20.3 percent in November 2020 to 17.0 percent in February 2021.The unemployment rate remained relatively higher among females (18.4 percent) as compared to males (15.7 percent).

The employment-to-population ratio continues to show a relatively stable trend varying between 45 and 48 percent but has reduced to 42 percent in February 2021.

Assessing the impact of the pandemic covid-19 on the labour market has been a big challenge, the ILO recognized that traditional labour market indicators are not enough to reflect the current situation of the labour market and suggested hours of work as  indicators (hours worked per person in the working population, working-hour losses) to complement the existing labour market indicators in order to measure the impact of the pandemic to the employment.  

Actual working hours has reduced by 14% as compared to total hours actually worked from November 2020 to February 2021 during the reference period. The loss of working hours has been mainly observed in urban areas as compared to rural areas of Rwanda and among Young person. This may be due to some of the measures taken by the government of Rwanda to contain COVID-19, which include business closure, movements’ restrictions and the reduction of daily working hours.


Labour statistical Research Team Leader