Uganda’s unemployment nurtures bad choices

The  2014 Uganda  Population Census revealed the country’s total population stands at 34.9 million. But we all know the anomalies that were associated with the 2014 Census processes! According to the CIA World Factbook, Uganda’s demographic is profiled at 38.3 million people as of 2016. Which one of the two reports is to be believed is a discussion for another day, SOLOMON MWIJE writes

Both reports indicate that according to the country’s age structure, the biggest percentage is between 15 and 40 years old.

This is an indicator of high birth rates but low levels of life expectancy. Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, at 5.9 thus contributing to the high youth population and other development problems such as unemployment.

In its 2014 report “Youth Unemployment and Job Creation in Uganda: Opportunities and Challenges,” ACODE revealed that the youth unemployment rate is between 64 and 70 percent and about 400,000 youths join the job market annually to compete for approximately 9,000 available jobs. For that reason, about 30 percent of the youths who are institutionally qualified in Uganda are unable to find jobs.

If this applies to the skilled youths, then imagine what the semi-skilled and unskilled youth are experiencing. Opportunities are not available for exploitation to favour their living benefits. The majority of the youth depend on their parents and caretakers for survival.

The CIA World Factbook indicates that the youth dependency ratio in Uganda is the highest accounting for 97.3 percent, far greater than that of the elderly, which is at 5 percent. This means that the families and caretakers cannot achieve better standards of living themselves because of such dependency upon them. The bigger the number of youth, moreover unemployed, the greater the development problems faced at individual, community and national level.

Even with the increasing government funding for youth-led projects, unemployment levels still remain high. The impact of this problem is now being realized by urban centres that receive a huge influx of unemployed youth who are looking for survival.

Although those who migrate to urban centres try to set up small businesses and become self-employed, a bigger fraction still lacks initial capital. Many therefore resort to theft, drug abuse, prostitution, and gambling, as survival strategies.

The current liberal environment has further created socio-economic mayhem. The young people are looking for ways to meet their pleasure demands. For the years I have interacted with youth at the university, I have come to realize that the search for belonging keeps pushingthem into oblivion. Then they forget where they come from and lose focus concerning their future. Only a few reflect on what they do now vis-à-vis where they want to be in future.

Unfortunately, as the youth try to find ways of self-expression and discovery, many take advantage and exploit them. They resort to gangs and unnecessary political riots. A case in point is what is happening in the Kasese region where ethnically generated conflict has claimed over 70 lives, the majority of whom are youth.

Whose role is it then to create a better environment for the youth? Often  the Government is blamed for this devastating youth phenomenon, which to a particular extent I agree with – but I believe the youth have a greater capacity to redeem themselves.

The youth need to understand that refusing to join unproductive groups is a choice they can make. To survive and sustain your well-being, you must create and utilize positive networks and opportunities.

The funding you receive from the Government, your families or friends in not enough or sustainable. Thus, your perceptions, attitudes and behaviour towards self-nurture need to be positive. And you should work to improve your lives.

The writer is a lecturer  in the Faculty of Social Sciences

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