PARLIAMENT- Years after trying out several ventures in vain, Cabinet has now drafted a new plan to address the problem of youth unemployment in the country.
The $246,227,260 (Shs890b) National Action Plan on Youth Employment (NAPYE) is expected to be the magic bullet in addressing a problem that is affecting 87 per cent of graduates churned out every year.
In the past two decades, government’s attempt to address youth unemployment has been through generic development policies and schemes such as the Poverty Alleviation Programme, the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture, the National Agriculture Advisory Services and most recently, the Youth Livelihood Programme. However, all these programmes have not delivered the desired results, and many youth are yearning for employment.
“The ability of the youth to benefit from such programmes has been hampered by a number of factors, including inability to get the requisite experiences, social/cultural barriers as well as lack of requisite inputs,” the plan’s justification reads in part.
Youth unemployment is one of the biggest problems government is grappling with. In 2012, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics revealed that the share of unemployed youth (national definition, 18 to 30 years) among the total unemployed persons in the country was 64 per cent.
According to the 2013 Millennium Development Goals report by UNDP and government of Uganda, there are about 600,000 to 700,000 new entrants into the labour market each year in Uganda and more than 95 per cent of these are youth.
However, it is estimated that out of these, only 9,000 people find jobs. The major aim of NAPYE, the ministry argues, is to create more job makers than job seekers since there are already too many young people entering the labour market than what the market can absorb.
In the new plan, government has pointed out four major causes of failure to address youth unemployment.
They include; a weak legislative and institutional framework to support improved youth employment, limited effectiveness of education and skills development, poor sustainability of youth economic enterprises and limited effectiveness of programmes supporting youth employment in the country.
Each of the four constraints has been allocated a budget, which government hopes will be used to tackle youth unemployment head-on.
Strengthening policy and legislative framework for youth employment generation has been allocated $52,674,920 (Shs190b), improving effectiveness of education and skills development strategies has been allocated $72,491,540 (Shs261b), increasing youth enterprises development and sustainability $72,909,600 (Shs263b)and improving equity in youth employment opportunities $48,151,200 (Shs174b).
The biggest source of NAPYE funding is supposed to come from government via the mid-term expenditure framework allocation to ministries and sectors in whose dockets the NAPYE activities fall but it will depend on how high, on the national expenditure agenda, issues of youth employment can be brought up.
“Currently top government expenditure priority is targeting infrastructure development, a factor that present high financing risks for the NAPYE. The ministry of Finance has projected this scenario to continue during the next five years as government is bent on front loading most of the big infrastructure investments before the East African Community convergence criteria expected to come in 2020,” the ministry of Gender warns in the plan, a copy of which Sunday Monitor has seen.
It further warns: “Government contribution to specific NAPYE activities may also be affected by the liberalisation policy which downplays a direct role of government in supporting private sector investments that would generate employment opportunities for the youth.”
What needs to be done
Western Uganda Youth MP and chairperson of Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs, Mwine Mpaka, says since the National Action Plan for Youth Employment was brought forward by Unicef and Uganda is one of the member states/signatories to Unicef and, therefore, working towards achieving Unicef’s goals, it is hard to criticise a programme that is adopted by such international organisations.
“Like all other proposals meant to uplift the young people out of poverty, NAPYE seems too good on paper to yield any tangible result. The plan is good on paper. It covers many areas and gives a direction to follow but I do believe that we shall not put our eggs in one basket in our fight against unemployment. Let’s support avenues like Youth Livelihood Programme, Graduate Scheme/National Youth Service and Labour Export bills,” he said.
Mr Mpaka added: “The greatest battle lies on implementation stage. As Youth MPs, we have come up with the Graduate Scheme (National Youth Service Bill) and our major aim is to solve unemployment through fast-tracking available opportunities where youth can start as interns and later upon completion of the training be retained by that specific agency or company.”
Ms Isabella Akiteng, the coordinator of Uganda Youth Network, says government’s push to have the NAPYE in place notwithstanding, as long as government fails to appreciate the role of systemic collaboration within its institutions and other stakeholders, this project shall like many others suffer hiccups in achieving its objectives.
“We urge government to pursue both qualitative and quantitative research on the evolution of youth employment. This will include carrying out a manpower survey to ascertain the relevance of the detail pursued.
“Pay attention to other factors that affect youth employment like tax incentives for young businesses, subsidies, as well as regulations that protect the workers’ rights,” she said.
Ms Akiteny added: “In appreciating the above, comprehensively review all employment related policies and programmes rolled out (like youth livelihood programme, skilling Uganda, Graduate scheme) so as to streamline the functionality of the National Action Plan on Youth Employment.
“For any intervention on job creation to be productive, it must be sustainable, decent and provide opportunity for all and this will be the litmus test for this plan,” she said.
Mr Mpaka also argues that government youth programmes fail largely because technocrats design work plans, strategic plans and action plans but do not strive to implement them.
“Corruption and embezzlement have has hampered the progress of many government programmes like Youth Fund, Youth Livelihood Programme. There is also a lack of consultations. Youth are just ambushed with policy launch,” he said.
The Uganda Debt Network’s Programmes director, Mr Julius Kapwepwe Mishambi, said it is empty talk to bring new plans to address the youth unemployment question yet there are several unfilled jobs in government departments across the country.
“Let’s invest in agro-industrial opportunities that can enable us access markets in EAC, COMESA and else-where. Let us also utilise our embassies to tap into opportunities abroad,” he said.
Rubaga Youth Development Centre executive director Steven Kyeyune said for NAPYE to work, career guidance should be in schools right from lower classes so that young people know what they are supposed to do.
National Action Plan on Youth Employment (NAPYE) is expected to be the magic bullet in addressing a problem that is affecting 87 per cent of graduates churned out every year.
Strengthening policy and legislative framework for youth employment generation
Improving effectiveness of education and skills development strategies promoting youth employment
Increasing youth enterprises development and sustainability
Improving equity in youth employment opportunities
1. Fill gaps. To address the gaps in the legal and institutional framework in order to strengthen youth employment generation efforts in the country.
2. Skilling. To increase youth employability through improving the effectiveness of education and skills development strategies of government.
3. Enhance effectiveness. To Improve the sustainability of youth economic enterprises and enhance effectiveness of programmes supporting youth employment in the country.
4. Migration strategy. To improve youth employment opportunities through organised youth migration
5. Equity promotion. To promote increased equity in access to employment for all categories of youth, for example rural and urban youth, female youth, refugee youth and youth with disabilities as well as youth with HIV/Aids