Saturday, January 19, 2013

Youth unemployment a ticking time bomb

President Jakaya Kikwete

Daily News Editor,  17th December 2011

PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete said at the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Summit in Kampala, Uganda, that youth unemployment in Africa poses a serious threat to the well-being of societies.

He appealed for intervention. He also advised that incisive intervention by leaders was imperative. Each African nation produces an “army” of unemployed youths every year as they complete their studies, he said.

Indeed, unemployment is a growing problem that has been described by a number of national leaders in various parts of Africa and farther afield as a “dangerous time bomb” that could explode in future.

Africa, in particular, faces demographic challenges as its population of young people, aged between 15 and 25, increases and access to secure jobs continues to be problematic. Beyond economic costs, high rates of youth unemployment have social ramifications in Africa.

Some youths with few job prospects and little hope of future advancement go into crime and become a menace to society. Tanzania, which is no exception, has made efforts to create jobs or opening avenues for self-employment but, unfortunately, most mindsets among jobless youths are fixed on well-paying white-collar jobs.

There has over the years been a massive rural-to-urban migration among many youths in search of employment. One reason for this factor may be dismal agricultural performance. Another could be the warped mindset that education means automatic or salaried employment.

But once in towns, the youths often find themselves stuck in slums with little or no way to make even a survival salary and frustration soon sets in. It is estimated that about 133 million young people (more than 50 per cent of the youth population) in Africa are illiterate.

Many young people have little or no skills and are therefore largely excluded from productive economic and social life. Those that have some education often exhibit skills irrelevant to current demand in the labour market.

The rude shock here is that educational and skill requirements are increasing, resulting in millions of unemployed and underemployed youths.

In countries such as Tanzania, vocational training is seen as a means to “help bring young people back into the economic limelight” when the basic education system has failed (the notion of giving a second chance), or as a top-up to the basic knowledge base.

So, it is assumed that vocational training could help prepare youths for the immediate needs of the world of work. But this approach cannot solve the problem of unemployment fully. The youths still remain short of literacy, basic knowledge and lifelong learning skills.

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