Based on evidence gathered by the World Bank on youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, the authors of this blog debunk six myths that are “hold[ing] countries back from effectively addressing youth employment”:
- Urban unemployment is the central problem (false): Underemployment, rather than unemployment, is the main problem. This problem is faced in both rural areas, where youth can’t find off-season work, and urban areas, where youth spend too much time waiting for customers or someone to hire them.
- Past economic growth has been jobless (false): Africa’s high economic growth over the past 15 years has led to many jobs in higher productivity industrial and service sectors, particularly in private sector wage employment. However, the labour force grew at a higher rate than the employment rate and, thus, total unemployment rose.
- Effective industrial policy will solve the youth employment challenge (false): Although manufacturing is important in the transition of African economies towards higher productivity, only a very small number of youth are expected to obtain a wage job in the industrial sector.
- The problem is lack of vocational training (false): Although vocational training programmes are important, they can’t make up for the fact that 60% of African youth enter the labour force without primary level education. Moreover, many youth who have completed primary school lack basic numeracy and literacy skills. Hence, lack of access to quality education is the problem, not lack of vocational training.
- Agriculture offers no hope for youth (false): Although productivity and earning levels in agriculture are low, Africa imports a lot of food at high prices. With the right policies and programmes (focusing on access to land, inputs, education and skills, markets and finance), youth can make agriculture a beneficial sector to work in.
- The household enterprise sector is a dead end; policies should focus on SMEs (false): Small, informal household enterprises often lack support from governments. Yet, they often provide the best livelihood choice for youth who lack the education or skills to run a larger business or obtain a wage job. For these youth, it is important for governments to invest in infrastructure, and provide support and security of household enterprises.