Every year, thousands of young Namibians obtain their qualifications in various fields of study, not only from the three giant Namibian universities, but also from other local colleges and international universities. They join a pool of other unemployed graduates from as far back as five or more years.
These graduates have high hopes and expectations. They hope to find jobs in their fields of study, and with decent remuneration. They expect to get a return on investment on the cost and time they have invested in obtaining these qualifications.
Many of these graduates are from less fortunate families that have made sacrifices to put their child through university, and in return for them to be able to improve their living standards at home.
It is unfortunate that the reality that awaits them is far from their expectation. The jobs available are limited, and entry-level jobs are even more scarce. In addition to the oversupply of graduates from institutions of higher learning, the country’s economy is stagnant, and new business ventures are not being realised. This is causing the congestion and closing up of entry points into the job market.
The 2018 Labour Force Survey Report of the Namibia Statistics Agency revealed that Namibia had an unemployment rate of 33.4%, of which a considerable number are graduates. There is no doubt that these figures have tremendously increased since then, taking into consideration the impact of Covid-19 and many job losses due to the pandemic.
It is saddening that at the moment, a university qualification does not guarantee employment, or at least entry into the labour market. In some cases, graduates may end up being underemployed whereby they are not in roles of their field of study, and this may result in a loss of the knowledge acquired during their studies. A number of graduates may also be employed in their field of study, but underpaid. This is an advantage taken up by many employers, who are well-aware of the high number of graduates seeking employment. This is specifically the case in the private sector.
There has been great emphasis on the call for graduates to be innovative and create self-employment. This is not a realistic solution for many unemployed youths. It is not practical to expect every graduate, with little industry knowledge and no start-up capital, to start and sustain a business. There is a need to encourage employees who have gained the necessary experience and accumulated sufficient resources to start their businesses, and afford opportunities to the young graduates who are in dire need of employment.
Unemployment could be one of the many contributors to social evils such as riots and insurgency, if it is not resolved. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the government, institutions of higher learning, the private sector and other stakeholders work together to find a long-lasting solution to this crisis. The future of Namibia rests on the shoulders of her young people.