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Young, restless and unemployed

2021-10-28  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

Young, restless and unemployed
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Eveline De Klerk

A youthful parliamentarian has branded the scourge of unemployment as a serious crisis that warrants a declaration of a state of emergency. 

“A state of emergency not only highlights the plight of unemployed youth but shows that things can’t be business as usual. This is an extraordinary crisis – a generational crisis – that needs extraordinary and urgent interventions,” Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) MP Inna Hengari stressed this week in a motion motivation. 

Hengari tabled a motion in the National Assembly on Tuesday that seeks to discuss and debate youth unemployment, estimated to reach a staggering 50.3% by the end of this year.

She said, in 2014, South Africans joined the call to the president to immediately declare a state of emergency to eradicate unemployment and to give the best attention and allocate resources to lift young South Africans out of poverty. 

Director of the Labour Resource and Research Institute (LaRRI), Michael Akuupa, said the motion is timely, especially now that the economy has been plunged into chaos with the advent of Covid-19. 

“It is also agreeable that youth unemployment is structural. It is structural in a sense that the economy has not been revisited to relate to realities of the last 30 years or so,” Akuupa said.

“While, the motion is well researched, it lacks current data because the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) has not done labour force surveys since 2018. Thus, the figures are definitely different now and probably worse.”

While motivating her motion, Hengari said it is clear that the nation is dealing with a much higher youth unemployment rate than estimated, especially given the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact. 

She said South Africa (34%), Namibia (33.4%) and Nigeria (33.3%) are the top three countries with the highest unemployment rates on the continent and the world based on Bloomberg records. 

“This rise in unemployment for Namibia is problematic especially given the size of the economy and population of the country, compared to two of Africa’s largest economies, South Africa and Nigeria,” Hengari said.

According to Hengari, Namibia has one of the youngest and fastest-growing populations in southern Africa. 

In 2016, 62% of the working-age adults in the country were between the ages of 15 and 34, broadly defined as youth.

According to recent projections, the number of 15 to 24-year-olds will have doubled by 2045. 

She said in 2018, 67 000 unemployed graduates were reported by the education ministry and the number can only be expected to have increased drastically because of the current economic predicament. 

Hengari added the youth population constitutes a crucial resource but, without sufficient job prospects, it is a resource that will remain untapped.

She said young people need to be given a real head start in the labour market and they should not face barriers and hindrances as they seek to find work. 

“Job experience must no longer be a pre-requisite for those applying for entry-level jobs in the public service. The decision to remove the ‘experience’ requirement will be a game changer and will see a decrease in the high unemployment levels of suitably qualified young people if adopted by this House,” she said.

Akuupa, however, believes the PDM motion did not exhaust the issue of the informal economy and the 60% employment it creates from the total labour force. 

Currently, he said, it remains the biggest creator of employment in the country. “The informal economy creates a new world of work as a result of structural exclusion from the main economy,” Akuupa said, adding that the PDM should explore how this particular economy can be harnessed in order to improve employment conditions therein. 

He said to enhance the informal economy, key strategies in finance, credit scheme and education need to be innovated. 

“Recommendations should not only be targeted to activities in the formal economy and SME as entities that are semi-formal by virtue of registration,” he said.

He said recommendations need to factor in the fact that Namibia has a dual economy with youth concentrated in the informal economy. He further commented the PDM for initiating the debate which he said was long overdue.

 

Recommendations 

Hengari said to help curb youth unemployment, government needs to, among others, provide more incentives to the private sector or SMEs to encourage employers to expand quality internship programmes.

Also, she said there is a need to introduce learnership agreements (where a company employs a graduate, government incentivises in cash or through a rebate on taxes).

“We need to establish a youth employment service aimed at placing unemployed youth in minimum 12-month working experiences and training opportunities to develop critical skills,” she said.

She also urged a review of current entrepreneurship and business modules in schools and to offer financial literacy from an early age.

– ktjitemisa@nepc.com.na


2021-10-28  Kuzeeko Tjitemisa

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