State Vice President Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima has made a rare and brave acknowledgement that Malawi’s youth sector remains maligned both in terms of political status and fiscal priority in budgetary allocations in spite of their social and economic importance are being mentioned in all national strategic documents.
Chilima has further observed economic stagnation or jobless economic growth have resulted in growing youth disillusionment and despondency about their economic prospects since Malawi’s education is predominantly tilted towards preparing graduates for white collar employment.
The Vice President, who is Minister of Economic Planning and Development and Public Sector Reforms, made the remarks in Lilongwe today when he opened the Joint European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) Conference on Youth Employment.
Chilima cited the recent Census, and indeed the Demographic and Health Survey, which suggest that Malawi’s population, which is estimated at 17.03 million, is fairly young with 47 percent of the total population being under 15 years and the working age population accounts for 50 percent of the population.
According to these surveys, four phenomena pervade the youth experience in the labour market. First, Malawian youth are very active in the labour market. Except for the school going ages (15-25), the labor force participation rates for youth exceed 90 percent.
“But these high participation rates have been accompanied by a rise in youth unemployment as disguised unemployment has now given way to open unemployment. Second, most working youth are engaged in low-quality employment with around 22 percent in wage employment, 60 percent in self-employment, and 17 percent engaged as unpaid family workers,” said Chilima.
“Self-employment and unpaid family work are often associated with poor working conditions compared to wage employment, which generally provides higher job security, regular income and, more often, some entitlements to benefits. Third, as economic growth has not kept pace with population growth, the informal sector is becoming a more important employment destination for the youth. Malawian youth are increasingly going into the informal sector which acts as a valve for formal sector economic activity,” he added.
Chilima further stated that allthough young men living in urban areas find formal jobs more easily, informal employment is a widespread source of low-quality employment for Malawian youth as around 83.5 percent of young workers are engaged in an informal sector activity while 9.5 percent are in informal employment.
He also disclosed that there is a high mismatch between qualifications and job demands as a large share of young workers has jobs that do not match their skills.
“About 30 percent of young workers consider themselves underqualified while 18 percent think they are overqualified. However, an objective measurement of skills mismatch revealed that in 2014 close to 82 percent of young workers were underqualified and only 1.6 percent overqualified,” narrated Chilima.
The Vice President emphasized that if Malawi is to succeed in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while leaving no one behind, the country needs to have an active and substantive engagement of young women and men from diverse backgrounds in national-level development planning and implementation.
On the other hand, the youth also need to be the focus of our development and planning efforts.
Chilima said it is against this background that the new vision, Vision 2063 which is in the final stages of formulation, is Youth-focused and has a Youth Advisory Panel to ensure that youth related aspirations are taken into account.
“We argue that given the structure of Malawi’s economy, an inclusively wealthy and industrialized middle income Malawi is possible if we change how we do agriculture, industry and urbanization. For Malawi to create the jobs that the youth seek, we must increase Agricultural Productivity and commercialize agriculture. This calls for diversifying within agriculture away from reliance on rain-fed agriculture towards irrigation, from smallholder subsistent agriculture towards commercial agriculture.
“We must also change the structure of production by increasing the share of output from industry or manufacturing including output from mining. As a significant portion of the youth move from the rural to urban areas in search for employment, we also need to deal with urbanization. We must ensure that urban areas have the capacity to provide required municipal services to current and future citizen,” said Chilima.
He commended EU, AU and the Malawi Government for partnering to organize this conference, stressing that the conference will afford them an opportunity for introspection on our efforts to address challenges that the youth are facing.
In her remarks, the EU Commissioner for Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, said through the Skills and Technical Education Programme (STEP), the Union is expanding access to skills development and quality.
Urpilaine said they have also launched a €55 million programme on skills for jobs called Zantchito.
“More broadly, human capital, education, skills development and sustainable investment are at the very heart of our new EU-Africa partnership. We owe it to the next generation to invest in training, education and skills,” she said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :