ADDIS ABABA (ILO News) – Macroeconomic policies, investments, works schemes and youth programmes aimed at promoting employment are essential if Africa is to sustain its recent economic growth, the ILO said as hundreds of regional leaders attended the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“Improving the employability of young people, putting in place pro-employment macroeconomic policies, providing finance and venture capital and public works schemes, as well as investing in quality jobs are key to transforming Africa’s growth story into shared opportunities for present and future generations,” said Judica Amri-Lawson, ILO Deputy Regional Director for Africa.
“The promotion of youth employment must address both the supply and demand side constraints of the labour markets", she said.
As the world struggles to recover from the economic crisis, sub-Saharan countries have posted solid growth and are among the fastest growing economies, but the jobs situation, including youth unemployment, remains a major concern.
Strategies for integrating the youth workforce, investing in skills and education to boost labour productivity, and promoting sectors with strong employment potential were among the topics discussed at the Addis Ababa gathering.
More than 700 leaders from the private and public sectors, as well as civil society organizations attended the three-day annual meeting, whose organisers warned that youth unemployment remains one of several major challenges Africa faces.
“In 2012, Africa’s projected growth rate of 6 per cent will be driven by improved macroeconomic and political stability, an ongoing resource boom and a growing consumer base. However, resource price volatility, youth unemployment, food insecurity and the adverse effects of climate change remain significant challenges”, the conference organisers said.
Youth unemployment in Africa is exacerbated by the additional challenges of a youth population which is considerably higher than other regions, weak national labour markets and persistently high levels of poverty.
70% of the region’s population is under the age of 30, and slightly more than 20% are young people between the ages of 15 to 24. The situation is particularly dramatic in North Africa, which has the world’s highest youth unemployment rates and where one in four young people is jobless.
Unemployment is only part of the problem. African youth are more likely to be underemployed and among the working poor than their adult counterparts.
The recent social uprisings in North Africa, in which youth played a critical role, highlighted the urgent need to address young people’s right to enter and stay in the labour market. If youth unemployment persists, there is the growing risk of greater inequalities and social and economic instability across the region.
Despite impressive economic growth in Africa, over 70 per cent of the working-age population remains without a job or in vulnerable employment.
Meanwhile, thirty-two African countries have made employment and particularly youth employment priorities within their development strategies.
The ILO will host a Youth Employment Forum from 23-25 May 2012 in Geneva to discuss the challenges young people face in acquiring gainful employment.
The Forum – the first of its kind – will bring together over 100 young women and men, including 21 from Africa. The youth will share their experiences and views on the current employment situation and discuss practical examples of successful initiatives which have led to the promotion of decent work for youth.
Youth unemployment will also feature in the discussions at the ILO’s world parliament of labour, the International Labour Conference (ILC), gathering some 4,000 representatives of the world of work from 30 May – 15 June.