Unemployment takes away the benefit of youth bulge in Ethiopia

On eve of International Youth Day on Thursday, experts say Ethiopia has most educated population in history but fewer jobs.

Unemployment takes away the benefit of youth bulge in Ethiopia

Although youth contribute 70% of Ethiopia’s total 115 million population, the demographic dividend is turning into a bane in the wake of the failure to create adequate jobs.

As the world marks International Youth Day on Thursday, an official called for a diligent implementation of job policy to take advantage of demographic dividend.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Tewedaj Ehetu, communication and public relations head of Jobs Creation Commission (JCC), said Ethiopia currently has the most educated young population in its history.

More than 25 million students are enrolled in primary, secondary schools and 42 universities and about 2 million educated young people enter the labor market.

‘’Our youth population is a huge and unexploited resource capable of adding steam to Ethiopia’s economic and social growth. The fundamental key to tapping the demographic dividend is to create jobs, which is the foundation block of a stable and healthy nation,” she said.

According to the World Bank over the last 12 years, Ethiopia’s witnessed 9.4% growth annually from 2010-2019. But over the past two years due to COVID-19, the growth has slowed down 6.1%.

But despite this impressive growth, it has not converted into creating job opportunities for the country’s youth, according to Eshetu.
‘’The national unemployment rate stands at 29.7% and urban employments reached 19% in 2018-19,’’ she said.

She said the number of jobless could be higher as there has been no proper registration system in the country.

She laments that higher education institutions have not been able to produce young people with demand-driven skilled education.

‘’Ethiopia had never had a national job creation strategy and action plan until JCC produced an action plan early last year,’’ she added.

Need for creative business to create jobs

As to create jobs, over the past decade, the government had been organizing Medium and Small Enterprise (MSMEs) which are entitled to access to easy bank loans.

However, according to the JCC strategy document, MSEs face daunting challenges to survive and thrive.

According to Eshetu, despite the challenges thrown by the COVID-19 Ethiopia had created three million jobs. But she admitted that to reach the national employment goal, there is a need for a sustainably growing economy along with peace in the country.

A young man Alem Tesfahun said that after graduating from Addis Ababa University four years ago, he is still to find a job and depends on his family who themselves earn a meager income.

But just a few kilometers away, smiling young men and women were seen scripting a success by making international grade leather products and garments.

Semhal Guesh, 29, the founder and manager of Kabana Leather told Anadolu Agency that given the ever-growing high unemployment among educated youths, there was a need to start a creative business to create jobs.

Over the past two years, she has managed to become a global leather brand employing 130 young people.

‘’The COVID -19 had impacted the export market and as to reduce the impact we added a clothing product line. Despite the challenges, we have fully maintained our workforce,” she said.

Hüseyin Demir