Zimbabwe could face serious economic and societal challenges if a solution is not found for young people that are not in employment, education or training, experts have warned.
Findings from the 2022 First Quarter Labour Force Survey, released this week by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (Zimstat), revealed that Zimbabwe has more than 2,5 million people between the ages of 15 and 34 who are not in employment, education or training (NEET).
Of these, 1,5 million are aged between 15 and 24.
The Zimstat Report revealed that youth between the age of 15 and 24 years had a national expanded unemployment rate of 66 percent while the national expanded unemployment rate for youths aged between 15-34 years was 57 percent.
“The expanded unemployment rate was higher among those staying in the rural areas at 53 percent than those in an urban area at 40 percent while the national proportion of youths (15-24) and (15-34) years who were not in employment, education or training was estimated at 52 percent, respectively,” said Zimstat.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “young people who are neither in employment nor in education or training are at risk of becoming socially excluded – individuals with income below the poverty line and lacking the skills to improve their economic situation”.
Experts say young people with nothing to do will increase the dependency ratio which slows down economic development as well as become a source of serious instability in society.
Dr Godfrey Kanyenze, Director, Labour & Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), said that with the age group 15 to 24 who are 1,5 million, this suggests that it is such a high number of people that are neither in education, employment or training.
“So it means they are largely delinquency, not doing anything, and we can relate to it as Zimbabweans over the high level of adolescent delinquency. We are seeing a lot of young people abusing drugs,” he said.
He noted that this is the age people should be investing in education and training, but when you get such a high number doing nothing, it suggests that there is a big problem.
“We are not creating sufficient opportunities for young people to be either in skills training. Much of our skills training like apprenticeship are now down with very few companies offering apprenticeship,” he said.
Gorden Moyo, a former State Enterprises and Parastatals Minister during the Government of national unit said Education, Training and Employment are key determinants of sustainable economies and are currently the key vectors of growth in many of the emerging market economies.
He said that with almost 2,5 million young people without skills and employment, Zimbabwe is losing out on demographic dividends.
“Young people in some serious countries are driving innovation, hi-tech economies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Take, for example, the Kenyans and the Rwandese are tapping from the intellectual capital of their youths to modernise their countries,” he said.
Economist, Prosper Chitambara, said the number of productive population that is not productively engaged in any economic activity does not augur well with the economy.
He said that means a significant proportion of our productive population is not productively engaged in any economic activity, so it affects not only economic growth levels, but even the economy’s future growth.
“We need to make sure that all in all our productive population is in employment. But again most of the employment is informal and again it is not fully productive. It is an area that the government needs to be working on to ensure that we address,” he said.
He added that the private sector should also play a key role, especially on training even through public-private sector partnerships.
Dr Kanyenze indicated that there are a lot of initiatives that can be undertaken.
He said that the government should provide training for people to work in public works programmes such as rehabilitating infrastructure, which could be basically building dams, and rehabilitating and maintaining roads, which is a huge opportunity for Zimbabwe.
Moyo said it is high time the state managers invest in education and training as drivers of modern economies.
Another economist, Victor Bhoroma, said the 2,5 million youths mean that there are skills and capacity that are lying idle in the country and it would be ideal for them to get requisite training and some form of employment to produce goods and services in the economy.
“On the other hand, there is a shortage of unskilled labour in certain economic sectors such as Agriculture, Construction and Real Estate.
“The impact is that such idle minds engage in criminal activities and there is limited innovation or business enterprise from young people to boost future economic growth,” he said.
Bhoroma said that in order to improve this, the labour laws should be relaxed to allow employers to terminate contracts on one month’s written notice and employees to do the same legally.
“This allows for the hiring of short-term labour by the business sector,” he said.
He added that there is a need to industrialize the country so as to create jobs in the economy and the policies need to be stable and for the business environment to improve,” he said.
He noted that there is also an urgent need to manage inflation so that youths can engage in any business or income-generating activity to irk a living viably.
Meanwhile, over three million people are employed in different sectors of the economy, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) has revealed in its Survey Report.
The agency said the working age population was estimated at nine million constituting 59 percent of the country’s total population.
“The total labour force obtained from the survey was 3.8 million giving a total Labour Force Participation Rate of 44 percent,” reads the Zimstat report in part.