The World Bank says young people make up 18 percent of the world`s population today, or 1.2 billion in absolute terms. Of these, 87% live in developing countries. In Africa, roughly 200 million people fall within this age range, accounting for over 20 percent of the population, but this is expected to increase rapidly because 42 percent of the current population is below 15 years of age.
Young people aged between 15 and 24 make up the bilk of Africa’s unemployed, the World Bank says in two reports launched in Johannesburg yesterday.
The African Development Indicators (ADI) 2008/09 report shows the youth make up 37% percent of the working-age population (and 20% of the total) but that six out of ten are unemployed.
Arguing for a multi-sectoral approach, the second report, titled “Youth and Employment in Africa—The Potential, the Problem, the Promise” suggests several key areas where interested parties can begin tackling the issue, including expanding job and education alternatives in the rural areas; encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship; improving the access and quality of skills formation; and addressing demographic issues.
Citing examples of interventions designed to integrate young people in the labour market, the study reinforces the point that comprehensive and integrated approaches tend to do better than fragmented ones.
Given the challenges faced by the youth in labour markets, success in pursuing employment for young people will require long term, concerted actions, spanning a wide range of policies and programs.
Due to an increase in youth population, as well as the still very high fertility rate that characterizes the region, African countries will likely face an increase in job creation pressure for the youth over the coming decades.
While the youth population in Africa is not homogenous, the typical African youth, as given by medians, is an 18 year-old female who lives in a rural area, is literate but no longer attending school, and likely to be married with children.
“Finding productive employment for the 200 million Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 is surely one of the continent`s greatest challenges,” says Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region.
“The findings from this essay, especially with regards to the median African youth who is a poor female living in the rural area with little education and even less job opportunity has important implications for policy design,” she highlighted.
The report also highlights that helping the youth gain access to employment is a critical precondition for poverty eradication and sustainable development.
“One of the challenges faced by policymakers in considering such measures thus far has been the lack of information on what their options are, what works in different situations, and what has been tried and failed,” says Shantayanan Devarajan, the bank`s chief economist for the Africa Region.
“These are outlined in the paper, which also examines past youth employment interventions in the region, and discusses how successful they have been,” she adds.