18 December 2012

Rwanda: Youth Employment Crucial for the Future of the Country

During last week's National Dialogue, the focus was on self-reliance, and one of the ways in which individuals can achieve that, which is employment. In addition, President Kagame met with youth during the YouthConnekt Convention, where one of the big issues was youth unemployment.

Youth unemployment is indeed a major problem in the country: according to studies, 64% of age group 16-29 is jobless. Not surprisingly, it has also been shown that there is a direct link between education and employment, with lesser levels of education resulting in more difficulties to find work. On the other hand, technical and vocational education (TVET), which still carries the stigma of being the option of last resort or the one for less bright students, scored best on the employment chances, with 90% of graduates having secured a job.

The fact that so many young people are jobless, constitutes a serious risk for the future of our society. It is only by finding employment (or being able to create their own), and gradually obtaining experience in the workplace, that they will be able to climb up the social ladder and become tomorrow's leaders. The longer the start of this process is delayed, the less experience they will get and so the less bright our leaders will be.

Youth unemployment also has a major impact on the perpetuation of poverty. Indeed, this is the age when people tend to start families, even when they don't have work, and thus jobless youth create poor families, with all the negative consequences that entails for their children who, in turn, are likely to receive less education, thus having fewer chances to find work when they grow up. In that way, the cycle of poverty continues.

In addition, the young and middle-aged active population is supposed to provide security for the older generations by financing pension funds (directly as employees or by paying taxes). When youth cannot contribute because they are unemployed, these pensions might be at risk, or government might be forced to make cuts in other parts of the budget to be able to fund social security.

Last but not least, jobless youth are more at risk of getting involved in crime for survival, or becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs to forget their misery. Once they get in that situation, it will be even harder for them to find work, and their health will suffer.

Therefore, the measures suggested at the National Dialogue and to be implemented by various public organizations are more than welcome. If not, the country's future risks to be very bleak.

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