High level of unemployment should be addressed
Posted Thursday, October 24 2013 at 19:08
Going to Kalangala not so long ago, I passed through a swamp where three young men were busy on a motorbike. Two were washing it as the third, apparently the owner of the machine, was watching. After a couple of hours, when I had finished my business and returned, I again found the three young and able-bodied men busy with the same motorcycle.
This made me think about youth and employment in Uganda. These fellows were obviously doing something and stretched the precious occupation as far as possible, but was it employment? To find out more about that, I went to the Statistical Abstract 2013 published by UBOS on October 1.
It has a section called Labour Force, Employment, among other things, giving figures for unemployment. Those figures are surprisingly low with an over-all unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent in 2009/10. The youth unemployment rate was 5.2 per cent in 2011/12.
That is an incredibly low figure; many like me will feel they personally know a large number of these young people looking for a job, “any job”. The figure also contrasts sharply with the 80 per cent youth unemployment referred to by most authors writing about the issue. Both figures cannot be correct if they relate to the same topic.
A study called “Lost Opportunity?” by Action Aid Uganda, published in January, found a youth unemployment rate of 62 per cent in Uganda. With this, we have three alternative figures for unemployment among our youth.
Defusing this powder keg is a matter of urgency. It poses a bigger threat than any possible terrorist action but how can it be done? Young people are without knowledge and skills that make them employable. Some drop out of school while others go on till they have a degree that no employer needs.
Education reform is necessary and it has to go deeper than emphasising mathematics and science in secondary school. Modern industry needs workers with internationally recognised skills; a fabricator from Katwe is useless as a welder in the oil industry.
“Skilling Uganda”, a government programme that is aimed at making today’s youth employable, if implemented, will go a long way in avoiding the imminent disaster.
Cato N. Lund,