7 January 2013

Rwanda: 2013 - Battle Against Unemployment Continues

Chantal, a graduate in management from Inilak, is getting quite desperate. Three years after obtaining a Bachelor's degree, she still hasn't found a job. "I have attended more than eight job exams, but in vain," the 37-year old complains.

For the time being, all the mother of four can do is to leave her CV here and there in the hope that something will come out of it.

Rebecca Mukanyandwi has had more luck. At 24, the Bachelor in accounting has secured a job in her field within a year after graduating. Yet she isn't too happy either, because she finds her salary too low. "I'm still hunting for a well-paid job," she admits.

Both women were part of jobseekers that flocked to the second edition of Rwanda Job Day, a job fair organized last Friday by Job in Rwanda (JiR) and @Wakening Abilities for the Future (WAF) in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board and Com&C Ltd (owners of Tohoza.Com). Under the theme "Meet your Future," it attracted more than 1200 of jobseekers who came to meet potential employers. Most of the former were university graduates, even at Master's level, lining up at stalls of different companies to see if there might be any job opportunities.

The big turnout is a clear indication of the huge challenge unemployment poses to the country. Yet according to the ministry of labor and public service, only 1% of the active population is unemployed while 43% are underemployed. It has to be noted, though, that those statistics are rather questionable, since they are based on the definitions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which considers underemployed people as those who work at least one (1) hour per week while the unemployed are those without occupation yet who are available to work and actively looking for employment.

By that standard, subsistence farmers are considered as underemployed, not unemployed, even though they have hardly any income and barely manage to survive.

On average, 125,000 people join the Rwandan labor market every year, compared to 104,000 job opportunities. According to Mifotra, the country needs at least 200,000 new jobs need to be created annually in order to address the issue.

Skills gap

To contain un- and underemployment, one of Rwanda's major concerns has been to find enough off-farm jobs, and one of the strategies to do so has been to encourage self-employment rather than job-seeking among graduates. Officials have remarked that one of the solutions is to equip the people with practical vocational skills so that they can create their own jobs.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is also considered as a way to bridge the gap between the demands of the job market and the skills supply.

"The education system supplies people with skills that are not required on the market. That's why the government is making a lot of effort in vocational training," pointed out Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the Minister of Youth and ICT.

Yet he also observed that there is a problem of mindset whereby people are not prepared to be job creators and even when they are looking for jobs, they do not have the right attitude. One of the objectives of the job fair was indeed to give jobseekers an occasion to get some experience in conducting interviews.


In addition, the organizers pointed out that there is no contradiction between a fair for jobseekers and the government's policy to encourage self-employment. "The idea is to help jobseekers get work experience and be able to become entrepreneurs in the future. So there is no contradiction with the government strategies, the two complement each other," explained Grace Nyinawumuntu, the public relation manager at JiR.

In addition, the Minister of Public Service and Labor Anastase Murekezi noted that the government has recommended that career guidance centers be set up in all higher learning institutions, and has launched the sector skills councils to enhance the interaction between labor market supply and demand, and to align higher learning institutions and TVET programs to actual needs of the private sector. "The employment structure is evolving in a promising way," the Minister noted.

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