Addis Ababa — The issue of youth unemployment was at the heart of the discussions at the two-days meeting of Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development in Addis Ababa.
Youth unemployment is a global problem, although its manifestations in the African countries are even more stark.
Youth in Africa constitute 35 per cent of the working age population but comprise 60 per cent of the total unemployed. Even more so, most of those who are employed are in vulnerable employment.
"70 percent of workers in many African countries are in vulnerable employment", explained Mr. Saurabh Sinha, Chief of Employment and Social Protection section at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Sinha clarified that with millions of Africans reaching working-age, there is growing recognition of the urgent need for deep structural change to transform African economies and provide decent jobs for young people.
According to ECA, from 1960 and 2010, the working-age population in Africa (15-64 years) has more than quadrupled, from 154 million to 650 million.
Sinha told the Addis Ababa forum that there is a need tackle the problems of employment, underemployment, low-paid, vulnerable employment and decent jobs in Africa through targeting both demand- and supply-side of the labour market.
"Supply-side measures include developing appropriate skills through quality education, the technical and vocational training and entrepreneurial development." Sinha explained that there have been instances where employers had positions to fill but could not find suitable candidates among unemployed. "Graduates leave universities with skills ill-suited to employers' needs".
On demand-side, Sinha argued that measures which include creating a suitable business environment, economic upgrading, establishing upstream and downstream linkages, strengthen regional links and negotiate for favourable global trade agreements should be enforced.
The central role of private sector in youth employment was also highlighted in the discussions. Participants stated that the private sector growth is a key engine of job creation.
Experts at the forum also discussed the issue of high rate of population growth in Africa, which has the potential to be a demographic dividend but only if there is sufficient investment in jobs, skills and education.