African perspective of youth and work

The youth unemployment in southern Africa (Sub-Sahara Africa) belongs with 21% to the highest ones worldwide (global average is 14%). In view of the proportion of young persons (15 – 24 years-old) in Africa’s population, it means a high unused potential. A high youth unemployment rate causes high costs, both for the affected individuals and for the society. Furthermore, most of them have to work in the informal sector, which means low-paid jobs and no social security. Anyhow the job market is barren; there are more reasons, which put the youth at a disadvantage, like the weak, economical development, the lack of relevant education and job experience as well as partly poor health.

In general the demand of workers is low caused by the weak, economical condition of many of the national economies. The consequences are low investment rates and therefore a shortage of new jobs. That induces employer to sort more heavily by education and experience – things young people can’t have. In addition they can’t afford the money to extend their search – the bus ticket is simply too expensive. So, they get discouraged by the long, unsuccessful search for employment.

The situation gets worse through the strong population growth. Between 2003 and 2015 the youth population grew and will further grow about 28,2%, that is much more than in Southeast Asia with 3,8%. Moreover, the strong population growth wears out the education system, too, which is frequently fighting against low enrolment rates and capacity problems.

For a successful integration of young people into the job market education and professional training is vitally important. However the level of education in Sub-Sahara Africa is very low compared to other world regions. To noun just one indicator: The youth illiteracy is for example much higher than the one in Latin America or in East Asia. There are big problems like the low or late enrolment at school or the decreasing private yield of basic education. All things considered and the bad future prospects after finished education, many young persons are induced to leave schools too early. To make matters worse education systems are mainly orientated to public sector, the demands of the private sector are neglected.

The state of health is another fundamental factor for the situation on the job market. The Aids epidemic has very negative repercussions of the most productive age classes, just because of bad health makes learning and efficiency in the job more difficult. Furthermore, low life expectancy reduces also the expected yield, which earns education for every single one. Thus education gets more expensive for the state.

The consequences of the above named conditions are leading deeper and deeper into a vicious cycle: In the hope of a better life and more job opportunities, young people are pulling to the cities, which lead to a fast growth of them. Associated with that is an increasing demand of public services and a rise of jobseekers. The rhythm of immigration is too high, so, the situation is mostly the same: The young people can’t find a job and the social network is too weak, therefore they’re forced to work in the informal sector, with what means drug trade, criminality and sex industry. By all that, there is a great loss of potential and of incomes for the government through taxes, and there isn’t just the loss, moreover the youth unemployment causes horrendous costs.

Youth unemployment is a problem that should be taken integral. The first step is, that young people must be seen as potential not as a burden. The politic process should include them in their calculations as an own part, because the needs of young persons are different than the ones of elder generations. With the elaboration of strategies for the fight against poverty the youth should be paid special attention. Furthermore, it should be adapted the interventions in the job market to the special needs of young persons. An important part takes therefore the measures in the education system (look above). For example relevant knowledge and abilities for the private sector must be more frequently and intensively taught in school.


One thought on “African perspective of youth and work

  1. I must admit that the situation in the labour market in Africa is definitely one of the worst in the world. African countries still are among the most slowly developing countries and it will take a long time for the governments to reach the required standards.

    The sad truth is that young people in Africa are in a vulnarable position, as long as there are not enough vaccancies on the legal market. As we have discussed during our labour economics session in the class, especially during the economic crisis young people are the first ones to be sacked. That is why young people search for work at the illegal market (drungs, sex industry, crime).

    One of the possible solutions to the problem could be launching educational programmes as well as labour exchange programmes between USA, Europe and Africa. Creating temporary jobs for big events could also be one of the solutions.

    Big events, like The World Cup, which is going to take place in South Africa in June, definitely bring new temporary jobs to the market, legal as well as illegal. It is already observed, that prostitutes not only all over from Africa, but from East Europe and Asia are making their way to South Africa for the high peak season.


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