Eradicating underemployment is crucial to Africa

Home Featured Eradicating underemployment is crucial to Africa

WINDHOEK – Combating underemployment, particularly among the youth and women, must be at the top of Africa’s agenda for the next decade. Underemployment is defined as the condition in which people in a labour force are employed in less than full-time or regular jobs or at jobs inadequate to their training or economic needs.

“A particular challenge for Africa is the persistent underemployment phenomenon registering above 75 percent in many African Union (AU) member states. We must provide justice to this situation in our policies, using the legal and institutional mechanisms of the labour market in particular. For sure, eradicating underemployment will lead to a significant impact on poverty eradication and improving inclusive development,” the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Doreen Sioka said yesterday during the official opening of the Special Session of the AU Labour and Social Affairs Commission currently taking place in Windhoek.

“We cannot continue leaving the large majority of workers outside of the labour market system and we need to be creative and innovative to engage these underemployed workers,” added Sioka.

The theme for the special session is “Employment, Poverty Eradication and Inclusive Development.” According to AU officials the theme was selected in light of growing evidence and recognition of a harsh employment challenge facing the youth and women on the continent.

“Although Africa maintained a mean growth rate of 5.5 percent for more than a decade, this did not translate properly into significant creation of jobs and reduction of poverty,” noted the AU’s Director of Social Affairs, Dr Olawale Maiyegun. He added that Africa “needs to accentuate her effort in simultaneously pursuing its economic development and expanding her social progress for better living and decent working conditions of her people, particularly the working poor in the informal economy.”

Ten years ago the AU’s Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government adopted a Declaration and a Plan of Action on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

However, a decade later the challenges of unemployment and underemployment are still prevalent.

An assessment of the summit highlighted that implementation was limited by weak institutional capacity at national, regional and continental levels, limited financial resources and lack of capacity building. Other factors noted by the AU relate to the absence of targets and indicators, which would facilitate planning and follow-up by member states.

“Our assessment of the 10-year implementation of Ouagadougou 2004 shows uneven achievements.

While modest progress was achieved in areas such as incorporation of employment policies into development plans, efforts at labour market information systems and uneven social protection, among others, there are still many shortcomings such as the weakness of labour market institutions, high level of youth and women unemployment, the absence of an operational coordination mechanism at national level and limited funding of employment policies, to name a few,” remarked Dr Maiyegun.

By Edgar Brandt