Tag: Market Monitor


Birches Group monitors labor markets that are making headlines worldwide and wants to share news and updates on the conditions in these markets.

“Blood that is spilled unfairly will boil until the end of time,” goes an old Persian saying. For nine weeks, the streets of Iran have been shaken by protests calling for the overthrow of the religious theocracy that has ruled for over 40 years. Iran’s countrywide protests began on September 16, when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody. Amini was detained in Tehran for allegedly not observing the country’s dress code for women and collapsed into a coma at a police station. A photo and video of Amini in the hospital were shared online and quickly went viral.

Iran has a long history of demonstrations and unrest. But the events since mid-September are different. They are led by women and young girls with no organizing force or leadership. They are spontaneous, persistent, widespread, and supported by people from different layers of society. Students and older Iranians, merchants and labor unions, and the middle and working classes have taken to university campuses and onto the streets of over 100 villages, towns, and cities across the country. Iranian expatriates have also rallied in support in Berlin, Washington DC, and Los Angeles.

And despite violent clashes with security forces, more than 14,000 arrests, and mobile and internet restrictions, dissent rages on with remarkable defiance.

The protests and the economy

The demonstrations across Iran now go far beyond Amini’s death and women’s rights. They have moved from demands for reform to demands for systemic changes, an expert told NBC News.

The protests have quickly swelled in response to the Islamic republic’s economic stagnation. The BBC says that, on average, Iranian families are “quite a lot poorer than they were 15 years ago.” Iran’s middle class has shrunk dramatically since 2018, with a third of its population falling into poverty. 23% of the youth population is unemployed, according to the Financial Times.

Additionally, Iran is facing a record inflation of 42.9%. Its currency, the Rial, has sunk to all-time lows. Since August, the Iran Rial has lost more than 20% of its value against the United States (US) dollar.

Businesses, shop owners, and bazaar traders in several cities closed their stores and went on strike, joining the protests in solidarity, Bloomberg and Iran Wire report. According to a primer from the United States Institute of Peace, factory workers in the energy and petrochemical industries also went on strike.

The Iran Chamber of Commerce warns that every hour of internet restrictions due to the protests costs US$1.5 million in damages to the Iranian economy. Research from the Tehran Computer Trade Union Organization states that 47% of internet businesses have lost more than 50% of their income. If the internet disruptions continue, 73% of businesses with less than 50 employees will lose over US$1,100 daily.

The government is considering a 20% pay raise for state workers. Still, the Rial’s sharp fall has eaten away at any benefit for workers, says London-based Iranian news website Iran International.

How we can help

Policies and procedures for keeping pay programs functioning in highly volatile markets such as Iran are critical. Organizations must develop a Special Measures Policy to determine the triggers and equivalent measures to support staff and ensure business continuity during political unrest. In addition, decide how your organization plans to implement the next steps for your staff. Employees need to know they can rely on their employer to help them during times of uncertainty.

We at Birches Group have extensive expertise in developing Special Measures Policies for organizations across different markets and sectors. Speak with our consultants today to find out how we can create one for you.


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Birches Group monitors labor markets that are making headlines worldwide and wants to share news and updates on the current conditions in these markets.

The White House released in August 2022 the US strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Its renewed policy supports four main objectives, including advancing pandemic recovery and economic opportunity.

A priority and opportunity

SSA is of growing importance on the world stage. Comprising 49 countries, the region is a geopolitical priority and an emerging economic opportunity. SSA countries hold roughly 25% of United Nations General Assembly seats. Moreover, the region is integrating into the world’s largest free trade area.

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration describes SSA as presenting real opportunity, with indicators such as:

  • A combined market population of over 1.2 billion people (that is expected to double by 2050),
  • A gross domestic product of more than US$1.5 trillion, and
  • Home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

The World Bank reports that economic activity in the area is set to expand by 3.6% in 2022, 3.9% in 2023, and 4.2% in 2024. Additionally, its young population makes SSA an attractive investment destination. Massive demographic shifts in this part of the world provide tremendous opportunities to create jobs, boost incomes, and reduce poverty, especially in a global environment of slowing growth.

China and its growing influence in the region

The world is well aware of Africa’s importance, encouraging countries to expand their political, economic, and security engagement with African states. In the past 20 years, new actors, such as China, have been shifting dynamics across SSA. And Chinese influence in the region is real and significant.

In 2001, China received less than 3% of the region’s exports, compared to nearly 19% for the US. In 2009, China overtook the US as SSA’s largest trading partner. Almost 20 years later, China has emerged as the region’s single greatest export partner, holding an 11% share of exports in 2019, while the US share dropped to 5%. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has invested in SSA through transportation, power, water supply, and other infrastructure projects. China has also provided loans, investments, and aid.

The US reframes its Sub-Saharan Africa partnership

The US is responding to growing foreign activity and influence in SSA and is engaging a region undergoing significant transformation. “It would be a strategic mistake for the US to abandon its engagement with SSA altogether—especially as US adversaries and competitors are relentlessly increasing their investment in the region…” said Daniel Runde, Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development, and Sundar Ramanujam, Research Associate of the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).

Biden’s policy differs from those of previous administrations because it focuses on overhauling its relationship with SSA from donor-recipient to genuine partnership. “Biden’s team extols Africa’s strengths and is proposing US-Africa partnerships on a range of issues,” said Mark Bellamy, Senior Advisor of the Africa Program at CSIS.

Further, Devex reports that the strategy has generally been well-received and is seen as sending a strong message about US engagement in the region. “It’s a strategy that reflects the region’s complexity—its diversity, its power, and its influence—and one that focuses on what we will do with African nations and peoples, not for African nations and peoples,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as he announced the strategy.

It’s also an effort to make regional engagement authentic and not just a battleground to compete with China and Russia. “Too often, African nations have been treated as instruments of other nations’ progress rather than the authors of their own,” added Blinken in his announcement.

Why this matters to employers

With the intent of the US to reestablish ties and reinvest in SSA, employers with a presence in the region can anticipate a significant shift in the labor market in years to come. Monitoring the labor market as early as possible is critical for your organization to seize economic opportunities and remain competitive. Keeping an eye on market shifts enables your organization to plan and make informed decisions about hiring, pay management, employee benefits, and more.

How we can help

We at Birches Group survey leading employers in over 150 countries with a consistent methodology designed for dynamic, emerging markets across SSA. We survey labor markets of varying sizes, focusing on employers that set trends. Get updated and relevant data on every country in SSA. Speak with our consultants today to understand our data and how you can use it for your organization.

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The labor market is constantly changing and evolving. It changes to reflect demands and pressures from different sectors, industries, and locations. New jobs emerge, old ones disappear, and wages fluctuate—sometimes due to external forces and local or regional economic factors. Organizations must stay on top of trends and monitor the labor market to remain competitive. Those that don’t keep up risk being left behind and failing to meet the needs of their people.  

One way for organizations to stay ahead is to monitor the labor market. Doing so helps human resources (HR) teams understand how their organization is affected by market movement. Reviewing and interpreting labor market data allows HR teams to address critical questions such as: 

  • How can we determine how much the market pays for similar roles? 
  • How can we competitively position ourselves against our target peers? 
  • How can we become an employer of choice in the local labor market? 

Keeping an eye on the labor market enables organizations to make informed decisions about hiring, pay management, employee benefits, retention strategies, and more.  

This blog post will explore why organizations should track the labor market and how to do so effectively. When the organization knows what is coming, it can plan and ensure it is well-positioned when the opportunity to grow strikes. 

Establishing market composition and position 

Using labor market data can help organizations clearly and consistently establish their competitive strategy, notably their: 

  • Target composition, or which group of employers are similar and more relevant to the organization. Consider organizations from the same sector, employers you lose your staff to, and organizations you often hire staff from.  
  • Target position, or how competitive an organization wants to be. Identify the ideal percentile (e.g., 50th, 75th) of the labor market the organization wishes to attract.  

Determining its target composition and position enables an organization to understand where it stands against key employers in the market. It also guides the organization on what it needs to do to lag, match, or stay ahead of relevant comparators. Organizations must consider their compensation policies and budget to establish their target composition and position. 

Setting benefits 

Labor market data also gives up-to-date insights into benefits widely provided in each country. In addition to salaries, benefits come in the form of cash (allowances and bonuses), in-kind benefits (company bus, gift baskets, company products, etc.), and non-salary benefits (retirement plans, healthcare coverage, family benefits, and leave provisions). 

As the organization reviews compensation and benefits surveys, it can easily identify mandatory, cultural, and market practice benefits, as well as benefits that address local hardships. And while salaries often attract key talent to an organization, benefits make up a significant part of the compensation package in developing markets. By providing the proper compensation and benefits, the organization can remain competitive and retain talent.  

Identifying HR gaps and making the necessary adjustments 

Identifying the gaps in HR practices is another way organizations can benefit from monitoring labor market information. Some of the few questions that organizations will want to address are: 

  • Do our hiring rates remain competitive? 
  • Are we able to retain the talent we need? 
  • Are our employee benefits competitive in the market? 

When the organization encounters talent management issues—such as challenges in attracting the right talent or holding on to staff—it may be time to make adjustments to the compensation package. 

If the organization is looking for data scientists—but hasn’t found suitable candidates—it may be time to rethink the starting salaries to ensure they are comparable to other organizations hiring for a similar job. Or perhaps the organization starts to lose staff after some time. It may need to reassess policies on pay movement, benefits packages, or career advancement to entice staff to stay longer.  

Understanding the impact of the data

Organizations need to go beyond the labor market data. They must understand how changing HR policies and practices in reaction to emerging trends, shifts, and volatility affects staff. So, the question that needs to be addressed is: Do the organization’s policies and initiatives reflect labor market changes and demands? 

A recent example would be the shift from working at a traditional office to working remotely or in a hybrid format. After years of being accustomed to working from home (in response to the COVID-19 pandemic), employees now expect flexible work arrangements—so much that they are willing to leave the organization if it does not offer the option. 

Another example is managing dispersed teams. With many employees now preferring to relocate to places that are sometimes far from the office, how will adjustments to compensation and benefits affect staff based in different areas? Should organizations still base salaries on city rates or adjust them based on where the staff chooses to relocate?

Thus, organizations need to use labor market data and its implications to help inform their policies. Other key questions that organizations need to answer when looking at labor market data include: 

  • Is our compensation program reaching the talent we need? 
  • How can we maintain our relevance in the labor market? 
  • Are there opportunities for improvement? 
  • Will changing our policies and practices help or hurt us? 
  • What are the implications of these changes on staff? 

Managing compensation even through uncertainty 

Now more than ever, organizations need to closely monitor the market. With inflation rising in countries across the globe, employees need to know that their employer has a plan to help them get through turbulent times.  

Organizations can best manage economic turmoil by monitoring the labor market coupled with a special measures policy. When volatility happens, chances are employees are going to ask HR how the organization will help their families manage their day-to-day expenses. When market conditions warrant adjustments to compensation, this is easily defensible when you have the market data to support it.   

When unpredictable events such as economic volatility, natural calamities, armed conflict, and periods of unrest affect the regular dynamics of the labor market, organizations must keep participating and monitoring labor market movement. By doing so, the organization can determine proper triggers, based on data, that would justify changes to compensation and benefits, as well as the frequency to which adjustments are made.  

Bottom line: Know where you stand 

The labor market continues to shift. It may be difficult for organizations to keep up as the market relies on changes from other sectors of the economy and events from around the world. As such, it is critical to keep track of the ever-changing landscape. This ensures that organizations adapt and adjust policies and measures to meet new demands, positioning themselves for success.  

To do this, organizations need up-to-date data about the labor market to know what conditions are like in their area. Tracking the labor market through salary surveys can offer helpful insight into emerging trends that could impact the organization. Monitoring will help employers understand current conditions to make informed decisions about jobs, the market, and skills and performance. In the end, keeping one’s eyes on the labor market helps organizations stay competitive.  

Does your organization need labor market data, especially on developing markets? We at Birches Group offer the most comprehensive salary survey coverage, with data on over 150 countries. We survey markets of varying sizes and focus on leading employers that set trends. Get in touch with our consultants to get started. 


Carla is a part-time copywriter in our marketing team in Manila. Before shifting to freelance writing in 2020, she worked as a marketing and communications specialist at the offices of EY and Grant Thornton. She has written about HR and career development for Kalibrr. 

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Birches Group monitors labor markets that are making headlines worldwide, and wants to share news and updates on the current conditions in these markets. 

Defaulting on debt

In November 2020, Zambia became the first African nation to default on its Eurobonds during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the country’s debt distress into headlines around the world. The debt crisis resulted from “years of economic mismanagement,” the International Monetary Fund said. Drought in 2019 and COVID-19 in 2020 worsened Zambia’s economic challenges.  

A precarious macroeconomic situation 

But the Zambian economy was witnessing “a weak macroeconomic condition” even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said. Growth was sharply declining. Zambia was facing severe challenges such as high inflation, unsustainable debt levels, low international reserves, and tight liquidity conditions, according to the economic outlook of the African Development Bank (AfDB). 

Over the past five years, Zambia’s economic growth slightly accelerated in 2017 and 2018, slowed in 2019, declined to a negative in 2020, and resumed in 2021, as reported by the 2022 Index of Economic Freedom. In 2018, Zambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated at US$ 26.31 billion, with an annual growth rate of 4 percent. But an “expansionary fiscal policy mainly financed by external and local borrowing” caused Zambia’s debt to hit 91.6% of its GDP in 2019 and 104% in 2020.  

Inflation nearly doubled, and the Zambian kwacha quickly depreciated by 64%. When COVID-19 hit Zambia being in this situation, the country’s precarious macroeconomic position took a turn for the worse. The Zambian economy fell into a deep recession, the AfDB said. More inflation, currency depreciation, and a significant debt burden forced Zambia to default on its debt obligation and seek more relief from lenders. 

A new dawn for Zambia 

In August 2021, Zambia’s trajectory significantly shifted with the election of a new government led by longtime opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema. As Zambia’s seventh president, Hichilema inherited a nation with unsustainable debt larger than previously known and had to deal with the impact of its debt default.  

According to Deloitte, debt restructuring, talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and a more stable exchange rate, among other measures, would be “fundamental to Zambia achieving macroeconomic stability.” Hichilema outlined an ambitious agenda to address structural weaknesses through macroeconomic reforms guided by an IMF program. 

Engaging the IMF 

“Zambia is in debt distress and needs a deep and comprehensive debt treatment to place public debt on a sustainable path,” the IMF said. The government began to actively seek a comprehensive debt restructuring. Specifically, it initiated a creditor engagement strategy to secure immediate debt service relief and better terms, the AfDB said. 

On December 6, 2021, the government of Zambia announced it had reached a staff-level agreement on a US$1.4-billion extended credit facility with the IMF from 2022 to 2025. On September 6, 2022, the IMF’s Executive Board approved a 38-month credit facility amounting to US$1.3 billion to “restore economic stability and foster higher, more resilient, and more inclusive growth.” 

These recent events marked a significant milestone and set the path for negotiations with Zambia’s lenders to restructure the country’s external debt.  

Focusing on economic recovery 

The country’s economic outlook has markedly improved, given renewed optimism and increased investor confidence post-elections. Additionally, the newly elected government has made several important policy announcements, including an enhanced focus on rebuilding the economy and creating an enabling business environment to foster growth. 

Zambia’s growth in the coming years is to be likely driven by “a clear path to debt sustainability, leveraging the country’s mining potential, increased private sector participation, focus on job creation, and good governance,” said Deloitte & Touche (Zambia) Managing Partner Humphrey Mulenga in Doing Business in Zambia. Economic activity will gradually pick up, with the World Bank estimating growth at an average of 3.8% from 2022 to 2025. While the market sentiment has markedly improved, the Zambian economy remains fragile, the IMF said in a September 2022 report. 

How we can help 

We at Birches Group survey leaders in over 150 countries with a consistent methodology designed for dynamic, emerging markets such as Zambia. We survey labor markets of varying sizes, focusing on employers that set market trends. Our survey data empowers organizations to monitor and benchmark positions in local markets and create salary structures tailored to each country’s requirements while conforming to global standards. 

Speak with our consultants today to access up-to-date labor market data and understand how to use it for your organization. 

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Birches Group has been keeping track of the volatile economic conditions in Zimbabwe and wants to share updates on the current labor market conditions there.  

Waning trust in local currency 

Al Jazeera reports that Zimbabwean authorities are struggling to pull the Southeast African nation from the grip of a severe economic crisis characterized by a rapidly devaluing local currency. Trust in the Zimbabwean dollar (Zimdollar) has been low after people saw their savings depleted by hyperinflation in 2008. Our July 2022 salary survey of the Zimbabwe labor market notes that the economy had dollarized between 2009 and 2019. 

Although the Zimdollar was reintroduced in February 2019, it continues to be sidelined in favor of the United States dollar (USD). Businesses and individuals see the USD as more acceptable overseas and better at holding long-term value. Because the Zimdollar became untradeable outside the country, employers were required to start paying salaries in USD.  

Local media outlets such as NewsDay have confirmed that demand for USD salaries has increased across economic sectors. In an opinion piece for New Zimbabwe, African affairs expert Teresa Nogueira Pinto writes, “There are now increasing fears that the country will experience another hyperinflation crisis as in 2008.”  

An exceptional situation 

Our Market Monitor categorizes labor market conditions according to six levels of volatility. Since mid-July, Zimbabwe has been classified as Level Five, indicating a prevailing practice to denominate salaries in USD or Euros. In our most recent salary surveys of the country, we have further noted that employer participants across sectors (including the NGO sector) now denominate and pay salaries in USD. This includes cash and in-kind benefits. 

However, our latest surveys indicate little to no market movement since February. We have not observed any activity in our multi-sector salary survey. But as of July 2022, we have seen minimal movement in our NGO salary survey: pay rates for support-level staff increased by 1.9% and at the professional or managerial level by 0.2%. Nevertheless, inflation has continued to soar in the triple digits since May. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the country’s central bank, reported an annual inflation rate of 256.9% in July from 191.6% in June. 

Next steps for employers 

It is vital to have policies and procedures to keep pay programs functioning and maintain business continuity in countries like Zimbabwe, where the labor market is unstable. A Special Measures Policy should be established to determine the triggers for updating salaries and benefits. In addition, organizations must decide how they plan to implement the next steps for their staff. Employees need to know that they can rely on their employer to assist them during times of crisis.

How we can help 

We at Birches Group have extensive expertise in developing Special Measures Policies for organizations across different markets and sectors. Contact us today to find out how we can create one for you. 

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