By Spy Uganda
Economists from the Makerere University’s School Economics have provided policy options to help mitigate youth unemployment in Uganda.
A team of researchers led by Prof. Edward Bbaale as Principal Investigator assisted by Dr. Susan Kavuma, Peter Babyenda, Brenda Kiconco, Anitah Kyamugaba, Hennery Sebukeera and Nakigudde Claire under took a research project titled, “Empirical Review of Youth Employment Policies in Uganda” with technical and financial support from partnership for economic policy Nairobi Kenya funded by Mastercard Foundation.
Representing the Principal, College of Business and Management Sciences, the Dean School of Economics and also PI Prof. Edward Bbaale noted that youth unemployment and under employment is one of the policy issues that warrant due attention.
He observed that Uganda is one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world with 54% of the population below 18 years of age and yet the population is growing very fast at 3.4 %.
Bbaale added that Uganda is also faced with a serious problem of high school dropout rate. Data from the Ministry of Education indicates that on average one million pupils that enroll in primary one, only 600 thousand sit the primary leaving examination and this number reduces to 300 thousand at the Uganda Certificate of education and reduces further to 100 thousand to those that go for the advanced certificate.
“The question is where these young men do and women go and who is the messiah. Is TVET, the different skilling programmes the messiah for Uganda? and more broadly even those that graduate at higher level, the question is that whether the problem is at the demand level to the extent that the economy is so much contracted and that there is no space for people to come and take employment meaning that the economy is growing without creating jobs”. Bbaale questioned.
Aware that the services sector is driving growth in Uganda and the agricultural sector is well behind services and industry as far as GDP is concerned, Bbaale noted that this means that there has been sectorial shift in GDP composition- at one time it was agriculture ahead of industry and services but now we have services ahead of the two.
“Whereas we have had the sectorial shifts in the GDP composition, there are no sectoral shifts in employment and majority of our people still depend on agriculture and there is a smaller cake despite its holding 60% of our people coming with questions of low productivity and poverty.
And so given that, if majority of Ugandans are not employed in the services sector which is leading the GDP composition, can we say our economy is having a jobless profile? We are growing without jobs and then on the other hand, can we say it is the supply side and skills mismatch? Do those people that graduate every year in universities and other institutions match the available opportunities?.Prof. Bbaale questioned.
Prof. Bbaale also stressed that the issue of youth unemployment and under employment is topical and has gone on for sometime but not leading the same in finding a lasting solutions for the youth unemployment problem.
The study recommends that government prioritise policies that create jobs and address youth unemployment/under-employment and strengthen the YEP’s Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, and Learning (MERL) system.
The study proposes the development of a clear resource mobilization strategy during the YEP design phase and expansion of YEPs into new locations with updated priority areas.
The policy initiatives should be SMART and should reinforce labour market participation, especially regarding discouraged workers and women.
Other policy recommendations include benchmarking with other countries that have succeeded; Reduce of political interferences in the bureaucratic process of the YEP implementation; Increase budget allocation to YEP and also improve the adequacy and effectiveness of the technical support unit of these programs.
In addition, the study advocates for holistic youth employment policy initiatives as opposed to piecemeal, ad-hoc, under-funded and poorly implemented programs. The programs should be rooted within a wider framework that places structural transformation of the country such as NDP III, Vision 2040, among others.