Addressing the Persistent Problem of Youth Unemployment

Author : Emma Broholm

Since 2015 countries, organizations, and individuals, including Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI), have vowed to implement and follow the United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). CYFI focuses on 8 SDGs specifically, including SDG 8 - decent work and economic growth - which is relevant for CYFI's Financial Inclusion Framework. It is worth noting that both CYFI and the SDGs focus on job growth for youth and with good reason. Across the world, 71 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are registered as unemployed. To clarify, ILO defines unemployment as someone without work, available for work and actively seeking work. Youth unemployment is a current and acute problem that unfortunately is often labeled as "too difficult to solve now". Worldwide youth unemployment is a problem too vast and too region specific to discuss here, therefore, this article will focus solely on youth unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa and its causes and possible solutions.

Currently, 11.6 million young people are registered unemployed in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are multiple causes for this, first and foremost, lack of proper education. Millions of children do not acquire basic reading, writing and mathematics skills, however this is not the only problem. When children do have the opportunity, they do not receive a proper education, the emphasis being on proper. Most national curricula do not have the resources to focus on vocational subjects, including entrepreneurship education, or how to develop and properly use soft skills, such as research and communication skills. This prevents young people from discovering their unique talents and prevents them from acquiring the skills needed to find employment to suit their skillset. Linked to the lack of wholesome education, is the lack of proper funding. To implement an educational reform and to fund research and employment programs, extensive funding is needed. Between 2010 and 2014, the donor aid for education dropped by 14%. This led to a halt in the much-needed educational reform. Finally, attention should be paid to the current gender disparities in education. Worldwide, there are more than 61 million uneducated young girls, and of these women, approximately 29 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the abundance of evidence that suggests educating girls leads to social, economic and health gains and reduce youth unemployment, this continues to be the case.

While the ever-growing problem of youth unemployment cannot be solved overnight, a few long-term solutions can be offered. The most obvious change is the provision of quality education, which is unfortunately easier said than done. The Equity Group Foundation, an initiative by Equity Bank Kenya, has begun to address the issue in Kenya. In collaboration with Mastercard, the Foundation started a financial education program – covering budgeting, savings, debt management, financial negotiations, and banking services. Furthermore, the Foundation launched an entrepreneurship-training program, offering training to young entrepreneurs to increase the entrepreneurs' practical business skills. To date, the program has mentored and supported over 11,500 youth, women and emerging entrepreneurs. In addition to these programs, educational reforms must also be implemented. The National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) of Uganda suggested that students must be taught how to be independent and use their personalized skillset to their advantage. The school curriculum should not solely focus on standardized subjects, but also on subjects that ensure that students are self-reliant and productive. This does not only apply to Uganda, but should extend into Sub-Saharan Africa and the entire world. Students, regardless of gender, should receive equal education that does not treat them as part of a system, but instead looks at individual skillsets, enabling them to differentiate themselves.

It can therefore be concluded that while solving the issue of youth unemployment cannot be done overnight, it can most certainly be addressed without falling back on the idea of it being "too difficult to solve now". Quality of education not only seems to be the biggest cause, but also the greatest solution for youth unemployment. Thus, a focus must be placed on offering proper education to young people, whether this is by way of changing the national curriculum or offering educational programs outside of the traditional school system. 

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Tuesday, 10 December 2019