6 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Youth Unemployment Cause for Concern

PARLIAMENT has joined the growing chorus over the country's high rate of youth unemployment, arguing that the swelling job market could be a source of civil disorder if not urgently contained.

In a recent report, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment said youth unemployment in Zimbabwe is four times higher than that of adults.

The committee said unemployment, currently estimated at 80 percent, needed to be addressed before it gets out of hand.

"A key consideration in empowerment is the recognition by the inclusive government that up to 70 percent of Zimbabwe's population are youths, that is to say people under the age of 35. The majority of these people are unemployed, with youth unemployment in Zimbabwe being four times higher than that of adults," reads part of the report.

"Regrettably, youth unemployment is no longer just an economic issue. Unemployed, educated youths have become a hotbed of social movements, resistance and implosion as has been witnessed during the 'Arab Spring'".

The lawmakers' sentiments follow similar observations by President Robert Mugabe who last year said youth unemployment and under-employment presented one of the biggest challenges to government. If not addressed, he said, unemployment was a potential threat to national peace and stability.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has also expressed similar views.

Getting youths employed or involved in meaningful economic activities is cause for concern for all developing economies.

A number of regional and international conventions have already emphasised the need for action on the matter and these include the United Nations resolution on promoting youth employment of December 2002; the UN resolution concerning policies and programmes involving the youth of January 2004; the resolutions of the 93rd International Lab-our Conference of June 2005 concerning youth employment; as well as the Oua-gadougou Declaration of the Heads of State and Government of Africa of September 2004 and the conclusions of the southern Africa sub-regional conference on youth employment, among others.

To get youths employed and engaged in meaningful programmes of empowerment, according to the report, requires a number of solutions that include:

  •  The need for Treasury to bolster funding towards the youth development fund so as to allow growth in the economy and job creation.
  •  An economy able to generate savings and foreign direct investment to assist those venturing into entrepreneurship;
  •  An education system that recognises the importance of vocational and technical training; and
  •  Placing resources in post primary education that focuses on skills training and, in particular, emphasising on developmental disciplines such as engineering, business, In-formation Technology and agriculture is critical.

"The difference between countries, which have respected this policy and those who have continued to lay emphasis on a West-minster humanities curriculum is huge and is well captured in the 2011 African Youth Report. It is thus, important in the 2013 budget to ring-fence resources to education, including vocational education," the report added.

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