Youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges, constraints and opportunities
This article in the Journal of African Economies provides an overview and analysis of youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa. While many refer to the youth employment problem as the ‘youth unemployment problem’, unemployment is not high in low-income sub-Saharan Africa (3%) or in middle-income countries outside of Southern Africa. Since jobs remain elusive in the formal wage sector, youth have found innovative ways to express and exploit their talents and capabilities in the agriculture and household enterprises (informal sector). Jobs in the formal sector remain unstable, since African economies have failed to transform structurally from low productivity agriculture to higher productivity non-agricultural sectors. This can not only impact employment but also food and nutrition security of youth. Given the large numbers of youth entering the labor market each year, and the weak structural transformation of most African economies, the informal sector will remain a major employer of youth, particularly the less skilled and less educated. The author argue that therefore policy thinking across Africa needs to change. According to them it is imperative that policy makers make concerted efforts to raise productivity (and thus earnings) in the informal sector, rather than continue to focus exclusively on the formal wage sector. The authors recommend that policy makers need to learn from, and work with the youth to enable scalability of certain youth initiatives.