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Editorial: Disarm joblessness ticking time bomb 

2021-10-29  Staff Reporter

Editorial: Disarm joblessness ticking time bomb 
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The motion, introduced by youthful MP Inna Hengari this week on youth unemployment, needs to be roundly applauded and thoroughly supported.

Our headline of the story, published yesterday, ‘Young, restless and unemployed... jobless crisis engulfs nation’ – not only encapsulates the depth of the challenge but also the dangers this challenge poses.

It is estimated youth unemployment will reach over 50% by the end of this year. 

Hengari said a state of emergency not only highlights the plight of unemployed youth, but it shows that things can’t be business as usual. 

“This is an extraordinary crisis – a generational crisis – that needs extraordinary and urgent interventions,” the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) MP stressed in the motivation of her motion. 

Youth unemployment truly is a ticking time bomb, and we would allow it to fester further at our peril.

In 2018, the education ministry reported 67 000 unemployed graduates and the number definitely increased because of the economic struggles even before the devastation that Covid-19 brought.

Namibia considers a person unemployed if s/he has been available for work in the last seven days but has not found work, while a person who has worked at least one hour in the last seven days is considered employed.

This definition is certainly problematic but definitions, policies and plans do not put food on people’s tables – actions do. 

Politicians like to throw around phrases like youth dividend and skills development but their many policies and plans, printed on expensive glossy paper, have resulted in very few, if any, jobs. 

A dividend is only realised if an investment is made. 

Government’s immense investment in education has not paid dividends yet, as most of the budget for those ministries money goes to salaries, instead of improved facilities, equipment and research. 

So far, the investment in education by government and private business, who so heavily rely on government spending, only resulted in unemployable school leavers, thousands of unemployed graduates and a growing restlessness among a hugely disgruntled and energetic section of the population, who could easily disturb Namibia's much-vaunted peace and stability if solutions are not found soon. 

Some people are already turning to crime to be able to afford the basics.

Hengari›s suggestion of incentives for businesses to nudge them into taking on interns is unfortunately not well thought through, as Namibian businesses have proven they simply do not care about the welfare of Namibian workers.

In recent years, salaries and benefits have shrunk; retrenchments have been rife, and businesses have used Covid-19 as a scapegoat to cut pay and perks as well as staff numbers. 

The VET levy of 1% that employers with an annual payroll of N$1 million or more are required to pay as a levy to the NTA’s National Training Fund monthly could instead be broadened and help entrench vocational training, and to further help graduates with viable business plans to start their own businesses. 

This time around, parliamentarians should make meaningful and well-researched contributions – and resist petty party allegiance to find a lasting solution for a truly scary crisis.

2021-10-29  Staff Reporter

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