Unemployment increasingly a threat to social progress, harmony – survey

 

Unemployment is rated as one of the biggest problems facing Ugandans, and this was echoed by President Yoweri Museveni recently, fearing for its repercussions on the stability of the country.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, UBOS, the rate of unemployment fell from 5.1 percent in 2016 to 4.8 percent last year, but the figure doubles when it comes to youth unemployment.

The urban youth are four times more likely to be unemployed than the rural counterparts, and this is explained by the economic structure of Uganda, which is dominated by the formal sector and agriculture.

According to a new survey by Sauti Za Wanchi, a regional platform for socioeconomic information, most Ugandans, or 78 percent, feel that the government is either doing somewhat badly or very badly in creating jobs or income opportunities.

President Museveni acknowledges that because of the lack of unemployment among the young people, they are easily attracted to protests, either out of anger, or in return for a form of payment.

With the Sub-Saharan African unemployment rate at 7.2 percent this year, Uganda is much better off than her peers, at least according to the figures at the International Labour Organisation.

The discomfort

Most of the youths considered employed, are in informal, unstable and low-paying jobs, like agriculture, petty trade and boda-boda and porters, and they consider themselves unemployed.

Uganda’s university and tertiary institutions release an estimated 400,000 graduates every year and reports show that 87 percent do not get the jobs they are qualified in.

The rest either do casual or informal jobs (underemployment), or are completely unemployed.

It comes as it is expected therefore, that many Ugandans (38 percent) find inflation and the high cost of living as the second most important challenge facing Ugandans today, according to the finding of Sauti za Wananchi, owned by regional NGO, Twaweza.

Interventions

Since 2013, the government has been pushing for youth-centred programs to create employment, including the Youth Livelihood Scheme, the Youth Venture Capital Fund and the household-based Operation Wealth Creation, among others.

More than 160 billion shillings has been spent in various programs either as grants or loans in a revolving fund.

Many youth however say they failed to access the money due to the stringent conditions set by the implementing agents, especially commercial banks.

The agricultural projects were also affected by the 2016/2017 drought and disease outbreaks in many parts of the country and many borrowers failed to repay.

The President personally launched some initiatives in different districts aimed at helping the youth start income projects or grow their capacities. They include metal works, knitting, agriculture, furniture, among others, most as pilot projects.

They also include training especially of the girl child.

Apart from the slow performance of the economy and the high labour turnover, experts believe that restructuring of the education system to produce more job-makers than job seekers, and raise the employability of the graduates, will be the magic bullet.