Youth unemployment keeps soaring in Namibia

The youth still lagging behind

06 July 2021 | Youth

“Government should create the environment and private stakeholders create opportunities and these two bodies should closely work together to ensure that unemployment is dealt with.” - Otniel Podewitz, commissioner of the employment equity of Namibia

Enzo Amuele

The ‘first unemployment’ is the term that will directly fit with this feature as it refers to the incidence of being unemployed for the first time.

The first unemployment applies mainly to those in transition between school and work, as defined by the Namibia Statistic Agency (NSA).

Youth unemployment in Namibia has been on the rise since 2012, increasing from 37.8% to 43.4% in just four years.

National, rural and youth unemployment stood at 33.4%, 33.5%, and 46.1% respectively in 2018.

The situation might have worsened due to the pandemic as well as other, economic and political issues.

In 2019, President Hage Geingob spoke at the launch of the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) Report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work, in Durban, South Africa, and said that the high rates of unemployment and underemployment in SADC present formidable challenges, particularly regarding youth unemployment.

Analysing the current conditions facing the world, the rates might have become worse and this a challenge not only in Namibia but other countries as well.

How to overcome this challenge

Speaking to The Zone, Otniel Podewitz, commissioner of the employment equity of Namibia, said that no labour can absorb everyone.

“We have had a high unemployment rate since the last statistics, and the situation must be worse as we speak. A lot of employees have been retrenched, some companies closed down completely and this has increased the unemployment rate in Namibia,” he said.

Podewitz added that Namibia needs to start creating entrepreneurs rather than employees.

“Government should create the environment and private stakeholders create opportunities and these two bodies should closely work together to ensure that unemployment is dealt with. It is important that the government invests in the youth as they are the future, ” he said.

Students are graduating year in, year out and the number keeps increasing at a fast rate. A graduate from Namibia University of Science and Technology has been unemployed for two years, despite graduating with a degree in logistics.

The graduate - who asked for anonymity - said she has been on a job hunt and it has proven to be difficult.

“The problem is that when you apply, you do not get any response or feedback for your application. The tricky part with getting a job in Namibia is that jobs are given to people based on connections and not qualifications, ” she said.

This is a big concern facing the country and the youth - someone who has a degree and is unemployed for two years, one can ask themselves what happens to the fresh graduates.

Zabrina Ludwig, a microbiology graduate from the University of Namibia (UNAM), said many graduates are finding it difficult to obtain a job, especially during this pandemic.

“To be honest, it is quite frustrating when people continue to encourage us to be job creators rather than seekers, while we continue to have very little to no financial support and access to funding for business creation is not accessible.”

Youth unemployment rate in Namibia increased to 46.1% in 2018 from 43.4% in 2016.

Youth unemployment rate in Namibia is expected to reach 50.3% by the end of 2021, according to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts expectations.

In the long-term, the youth unemployment rate is projected to trend around 49% in 2022 and 47.4% in 2023, according to econometric models.

The highest youth unemployment is recorded in Zambezi and Kunene regions due to fewer economic activities taking place in the two regions.

High rates of youth unemployment have been a prominent economic and social issue in the Namibian landscape.

The rate at which unemployment is increasing in Namibia could have serious long-term issues on the structure and performance of its labour market and the country’s productivity if a large number of the youth were to remain unemployed.

Food is unaffordable

Namibians are feeling the pinch of the increase in food prices. The NSA reports that the inflation on food and non-alcoholic beverages during the first quarter of 2021 was higher than on all other items. Food is exponentially becoming more expensive compared to other ordinary commodities.

The Covid-19 pandemic, retrenchments, salary cuts and the growing youth unemployment rate has made the circumstances of living in Namibia gruelling and demanding, especially for the unemployed young people that may be breadwinners or self-supporting.

“If young people who live on their own do not adjust their budgets for food, it becomes very difficult to afford the same amount of goods they could purchase before the first quarter of 2021. The unemployed youth may quickly reduce their budget to accommodate the inflated prices. More food is no longer the case, they'll face an affordability problem which is mentally and psychologically draining,” Enos Enos Kamutukwata, a parliamentary researcher said.

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