Zimbabwe: The Dilemma of The Educated But Unemployed
By Perry Munzwembiri, zimeye.org
One key characteristic of developing nations is that a large proportion of the population is comprised of the youth. The African Development Bank notes that Africa has the fastest growing and most youthful population in the world. Over 40% are under the age of 15 and 20% are between the ages of 15 and 24. That is the standard definition of youth.
Kasukuwere…Must revamp jobs creation
Zimbabwe is no exception to this trend, with a large proportion of the population being the youth age-group. Every year, the local tertiary institutions are churning out thousands of graduates, yet youth unemployment continues to be a major problem in the country. The imbalance between the numbers of graduates leaving Universities and Colleges and the numbers being actively absorbed in industry is shockingly disproportionate. There has been increased pressure to create employment, especially for the youth, but the economy has remained hamstrung with various companies shutting down and overall capacity utilisation declining.
Zimbabwe’s literacy capacity is considered by United Nations standards one of the best globally. There should be a direct correlation between the quality of education and the quality of graduates being produced. However, the general trend has been that, most of the graduates being produced fail to find gainful employment in the formal sector. This has negative effects on the economy as their skills are underutilised. Unless concrete measures are taken to curb high youth unemployment, this problem will continue to be a vicious cycle that will inexorably lead to the continued underdevelopment and stagnation of the local economy.
This nevertheless can be avoided. We currently live in an era that rewards innovation and creative thinking. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. As such, there is a need to inculcate these virtues in the younger generation. Perhaps, our education system has remained too rigid and has failed to adapt to the new global order, and embrace the demanding dynamics of the new era we live in. Focus should be shifted from teaching people how to be employed, to teaching them how to be employers. The vertical strengthening of the school curricula that seeks to redress the disconnection between the higher learning institutions and the industry, through business development training which encourages self-employment should be implemented forthwith. Account of the productive sectors of the economy also has to be considered in shoring up the education curricula.
The next step would be the issue of financing the ideas and innovations of the youth. While it is appreciated that the local financial system is still recovering from the effects of the decade long economic meltdown, they have a pivotal role in ensuring the sustenance of the entrepreneurial efforts of the youths. Timely and flexible credit lines as well as availability of risk willing capital (venture capital) are essential to guarantee adequate funding for the various youth initiatives. The relevant stakeholders in this regard such as banks and micro-finance institutions all need to come on board and support youth projects.
The economic and social costs to the economy, of an unemployed youth can be detrimental. A quick glance at our neighbours across the Limpopo highlights the gravity of this problem. It is the responsibility of the government to create jobs for its citizens. Maybe this is the line of thinking that has been at the heart of high youth unemployment. There has to be a paradigm shift of the mind-set, to one that actively looks for opportunities to create jobs rather than seek for them. To put it into context, graduates of Banking, Finance and Economics could make themselves relevant by banding together with their diverse skills and knowledge to establish a Credit ratings Agency or take loans and form community credit unions in the country.
As a country, we have been a consumerist economy that is heavily reliant on primary commodity exports and capital intensive and extractive industries with low potential for job creation. Emphasis by the government, civic community and the society as a whole has to be placed on transforming the country into a productive economy. The sad reality is that, formal employment opportunities are few not only in Zimbabwe. In Africa, research shows that the youth constitute about 37% of the total labour force, but paradoxically make up about 66% of total unemployment. The relevance of the informal sector in creating jobs should thus not continue to be undermined.
Going forward, the problem of youth unemployment cannot be put on the back burner any longer. It has to be tackled as an issue of core importance in the strategic development of the country. We would be fooling ourselves, boasting to all and sundry about the quality and quantity of our college products that have no relevance in transforming the economy due to unemployment. Policy, thus should be aimed at addressing youth unemployment and ensure the trained youth are absorbed in the economy to become relevant, productive and useful.