Unemployment is defined as the unemployment of young persons, whose ages range from 15-24 years. An unemployed person can further be described as someone who does not have a job, but is actively seeking work.
However, I order for a person to qualify as unemployed for official and statistical measurement purposes, an individual ought to be without employment, willing and able to work. Last but not least, the person ought to be of the designated working age and actively searching for work.
Youth unemployment remains a menace for all governments in the African continent. It is not a new occurrence, since governments have been groping with the challenge and its adverse effects since time immemorial. Yet despite the recent strong growth, performance and budding economies of many African countries, youth unemployment remains a major political and socioeconomic challenge.
The threat of youth unemployment poses a great threat to the strength and growth of Africa as a whole. Funny enough, you will find out that some of the most affected countries are governed by dictatorship and bossed by the richest presidents in the continent. This however does not mean that unemployment has only manifested itself in Africa, it is also quite evident in other continents. Only that Africa’s case is very dilapidating.
Unemployment in Africa has manifested in seasonal layoffs, such as those done in agricultural jobs and technological changes in industries brought about by increased automation. Other factors such as nepotism, racial discrimination, workers lacking the requisite skillset and fluctuations in the economy have also contributed to the menace.
Youth unemployment is one of the most serious problems affecting the African continent. According to the IMF/World Bank report, most African states have been applying structural adjustments which have resulted in the retrenchment of a great number of public-sector workers.
The Business Week magazine in 2011 reported that, more than 200 million people across the globe are out of work or lacking work. Half of developing nations and almost two-thirds of developed nations have been facing a slowdown in employment growth. This is quite discouraging and drastic measures have to be instigated to curb this disheartening state of affairs.
The extreme situation in Africa has also been exacerbated by demographic pressure. This has led to a high number of new entrants in the labor market yearly. The most discouraging factor of them all is the increase in unemployment among university graduates. This has led to many youths questioning the importance of acquiring an education, yet the society keeps on stressing that education is the key.
Before we delve in to the dreadful effects of youth unemployment in Africa, it is important that we first demystify the root causes of unemployment.
Defective education systems in Africa have contributed highly to youth unemployment. Most educational systems we have in the continent do not correspond nor relate directly to the real economic situations prevailing outside the school systems. Instead of equipping learners with skills, theory instead of practical is the order of the day. And that is where they miss the point.
The education system in Africa only aims at imparting general and literary education that is devoid of any practical content. Yet, it is that practical content that resonates with the economic realities prevailing in the continent.
In a nutshell, Africa’s educational policies merely produce persons whose services and skillset do not reflect on the economic trends required in the job market. The curriculum offered does not entail industrial skills, thus produces graduates whose skills are not transferrable from one industry to another.
Most secondary institutions and universities alike offer training that only equips students for white collar jobs and not self- employment. Yet we all know that there are very few available white collar jobs available, amidst our growing population.
Lack of adequate vocational guidance and training facilities is also another cause of youth unemployment in Africa. Previously mentioned, was our defective education system which aims at providing purely academic knowledge, which is in the least sense job oriented.
To curb this, we need to set up a sufficient number of technical training facilities and provide job oriented courses even at the tertiary level. The latter is advocated for because, most students in the rural areas remain ignorant of the possible employment venues available as well as choice of occupation.
Compared to other developed continents, Africa is the only continent with most of its population residing in the rural and semi-urban areas. Yet, there is a minimal means for self-employment. This factor comes in the way of employment opportunities that keep arising. Most well qualified persons in Africa do not possess ample means for self- employment. As a result, they end up joining the search for paid jobs.
Africa is a labor intensive continent. But instead of capitalizing on that, by expanding this gem with intensive skills to meet global standards, African governments are placing more emphasis on capital intensive techniques instead of labor intensive ones. This has highly contributed to unemployment because, instead of putting the available labor into use, Africa has instead rushed to automate everything. This has led to more consumption of capital and a high level of unemployment. Yet the use of sophisticated equipment cannot be justified.
Last but not least, another cause of youth unemployment can be attributed to negligent leadership, corruption, power retention culture and embezzlement of funds meant for development. The aforesaid factors leave no room for development, which may bring about job opportunities, hence Africa keeps lagging behind.
Dreadful effects of youth unemployment
Youth unemployment poses various adverse effects which impede economic development in the African continent. Firstly, unemployment results in loss of human resources. This poses the risk of loss of talent and skills since people with adequate skills and competence are left unutilized. Talent and skill that could have been tapped so as to foster growth in the continent goes to waste.
High unemployment levels have also occasioned to increase in poverty. This is brought about by the fact that unemployment deprives man of all sources of income. This results to lack, which is tantamount to poverty. At the end of it, they cannot afford even the most basic needs a human being ought to enjoy.
Another adverse effect brought about by youth unemployment is the breeding of social problems. These include gambling, bribery, theft and vices such as dishonesty. Extensive joblessness leads to a form of social pathology which is reflected by an increased crime rate. It brings about discontent against the state and against other human beings. Any slight provocative thing triggers social unrest as well as violent demonstrations which end up in loss of lives and irreparable damage to property.
Youth unemployment also results in immorality such as prostitution. Most youth view this as an easy escape route out of the pangs of poverty. However, the end result is a population suffering from HIV/AIDS. Drug abuse and peddling is another dreadful effect occasioned by unemployment. Most unemployed youths take out their frustration and desperation brought about by futile searches for jobs, on drugs. They also opt to peddle drugs in bid to eke a living. This however puts them at loggerheads with law enforcement.
Joblessness is also an automatic threat to social, political and economic security. This is so because, due to hardships arising out of unemployment, people indulge in any means possible in bid to cater for their basic human needs. The means resulted to, are the major foundations of social disorder and economic stagnation.
Youth unemployment has also resulted in an economic plunge, reduced productivity and decreased GDP. This is because, first of all there are a few people paying taxes yet, the economic costs in the country, (eg. money paid out on social grants and other amenities), and are always on the rise. Yet the governments depend on taxes for running of most projects and not on foreign grants.
Political stability in Africa has also been affected adversely by youth unemployment. Unemployment gives birth to political instability. This is because jobless persons are easily swayed by antisocial elements. Hence, they lose faith in democratic and peaceful ways. They are of the view that the government is the cause or does not care about their plight. They also feel that the government denies them work on purpose. As a result, they result in any means to get their grievances addressed.
Lastly, exploitation of labor comes about when there is a high rate of unemployment. Employers take advantage of the prevailing conditions by exploiting laborers to the maximum possible extent. They are subjected to work under adverse conditions, yet receive a meagre wage.
Jobseekers are usually subjected to harsh conditions of service since they are desperate for any form of employment. Employers therefore manipulate them by getting the maximum from them, yet subjecting them to unfavorable conditions. This poses a huge threat to social and economic justice.
It is quite evident that youth unemployment is one of the greatest hindrances to development in Africa. Adequate and conscious efforts ought to be put in place so as to ensure that the unemployment menace is put into check.
Improvements in the education and training sector ought to be done so as to provide the youth with all-round skills. This helps them fit in any job market. Greater focus should be placed on vocational training and skills. Schools should strive to impart transferable skills which blend with the current economic trends.
School curricula should be drafted with the main aim of producing skilled individuals, in the technical and vocational fields. Governments should also try to generate more jobs by promoting economic growth. More industries should be set up and so should support be offered to the struggling industries. It is from these industries that job opportunities arise.
It is also advisable that governments increase resource allocation out of the national budget for employment promotion activities. Although the results will not be seen immediately as this is a progressive move, the end result is definitely worth it.
Writer’s Bio: Samson Lulii is a young aspiring freelancer, currently pursuing degree of tourism management at the Technical University of Mombasa-Kenya. He is the editor and sole owner of African Zeal.