Youth joblessness a 'powder keg'

Youth unemployment has been described as the biggest threat to the country to date, and one that should be addressed urgently.

29 March 2018 | Local News

Economists, employment advocates and unions agree that the sky-high youth unemployment rate, coupled with scant political will to deal with it, poses a grave threat to the country.

“Youth unemployment is a powder keg, and if there are no serious efforts to tame the current high rate of youth unemployment in Namibia, the system could implode”, professor of economics Omu Kakujaha-Matundu warned this week.

He further argued that despite the odds stacked against the economy, available resources are not pumped into diffusing high unemployment rates in Namibia.”

Kakujaha-Matundu warned that unemployment is “the most serious thorn in the Namibian economy's flesh.”

According to the National Statistics Agency (NSA), broad unemployment stands at 34%, with youth unemployment estimated at 37.8%.

The Namibia Labour Force Survey 2016 found 246 262 youths are jobless in Namibia.

Job losses in the past year have reached the thousands, Kakujaha-Matundu said.

He added that economic growth is characterised as growth without employment, with “the current fiscal consolidation by government” having exacerbated the situation.

Tackling the issue will require going for the “low-hanging fruits” first. First stop is to curb corruption, allowing available resources to be “put to sustainable and job creating projects.”



Low marks for education

In addition to a number of urgent, and short-term strategies, Kakujaha-Matundu emphasised that the long-term solution, “which should have begun yesterday, is to pay serious attention to our education system”.

Ignoring the urgent need to overhaul and improve the quality of education, will cost Namibia dearly.

Tim Parkhouse of the Namibia Employment Federation (NEF) characterised youth unemployment across Africa as a crisis, and in Namibia, “a major concern”.

He explained that unlike other countries on the continent, where a complete lack of education is a major contributor to youth unemployment, the heart of the issue in Namibia can be attributed in part to low education standards.

“The quality of basic education in Namibia is sadly seriously lacking and without the basics, personal development in any direction is limited.”

Parkhouse noted that around 30 000 youth enter the job market annually, so tackling the annual steep bump in employment seekers needs to be addressed”.

In terms of successes, Parkhouse said the launch this week of a formal apprenticeship programme, a joint initiative by the NEF and the Namibia Training Authority (NTA), is a milestone for the employment sector.

Joining together to solve the problem

Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) secretary-general Mahongora Kavihuha told Namibian Sun a number of deep systematic flaws constrains job creation, especially for the youth.

He told Namibian Sun there is “no deliberate strategy or interventions” aimed at boosting jobs for young people.

He added vocational training programmes do not take into account the consequences of “oversupplying the market with VTC graduates”.

And there, he noted, the problem is a lack of basic social protections.

“We have seen informal sector growth, and we cannot allow these citizens to live without social protections.”

Another concern raised by the union is a lack of structured social dialogue between government, private actors and labour movements.

“Social dialogue in Namibia is on its knees.”He accused Namibia's government of a profound lack of political will. In addition, few companies recognise the importance of engaging with unions.

“We should be working together, but that is not happening.”

“In reality, government does not engage. That is why we need a proper structure, where parties can engage on issues that affect workers and the country.”

He warned the issue of job creation, and poverty alleviation, are closely linked to the interest of trade unions, namely job conditions and job security, social protections, living wages and the use of public funds ending up in private hands.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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