Africa's unemployment figures ‘frightening’

2013-11-21 10:07

(Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Geneva - The planet's poorest nations such as Angola and Ethiopia have largely failed to cash in on booming economic growth to create the jobs needed to push their ballooning populations out of poverty, the UN warned on Wednesday. 

"Economic growth that does not create decent jobs in sufficient quantities is unsustainable," said Mukhisa Kituyi, head of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

In its tri-annual review of the world's least developed countries, or LDCs, UNCTAD said that the 49 countries on its list had jointly seen strong economic growth over the past decade, but that there were too few decent jobs to show for it.

This is a problem, since these countries, including 34 in Africa, are set to see their already youthful populations double to 1.7-billion by 2050, with an estimated 16-million people forecast to join their labour markets each year until then.

LDCs saw their economies swell on average 7.5% per year from 2002 to 2008, but even then, the rate of job creation was only 2.9%, with some of the most rapidly growing economies actually seeing their employment rate shrink.

In Africa's second largest oil exporter, Angola, the per capita gross domestic product skyrocket nearly 92% during the period, while employment sank 2.3%.

Angola is a good example of how many LDCs have focused too narrowly on capital-intense but job-poor sectors like mineral extraction, Kituyi told reporters in Geneva, urging such countries to dramatically shift their growth and investment models.

A lost opportunity

Oil accounts for nearly 97% of Angolan exports, driving the GDP per capita up to around $10 000 and making Luanda the world's most expensive city for expats, even as the official unemployment rate stands at 30%.

Ethiopia, by contrast, appears to be investing heavily in creating jobs, although probably not enough to meet the needs of an ever expanding labour force.

The country, which is bracing for the number of new entrants to its labour market each year to jump from 1.4-million in 2005 to 3.2-million in 2050, is rapidly expanding its infrastructure.

It is building about 6 000km of asphalt roads, 2 000km of railway lines and building hydroelectric power plants, Kituyi pointed out.

"The whole country is a construction site," he enthused, saying that the public sector was crucial to kick-start job creation.                           

Many LDCs are not investing enough in areas that generate employment, like manufacturing, technology and upgrading the agriculture sector, warned Taffere Tesfachew, head of the UN agency's LDC programme.

The failure to create enough decent jobs when LDC economies were booming could mark "a lost opportunity", not only to cut unemployment but also to significantly reduce poverty, the UNCTAD report said.

The prospects for job creation in the LDCs certainly appear dimmer now.

"The numbers are frightening"

Growth has slowed to around 5% and the countries' commodities-dominated exports stalled to just 0.6% last year after soaring 25% between 2010 and 2011.

"If during that growth they could not create employment, and all projections are that commodity-led growth is [declining], when will they create the jobs?" Kituyi asked.

The question is pressing: about 60% of people living in the world's most impoverished countries are currently under the age of 25, meaning that these nations will need to create some 95-million new jobs by 2020, and another 160-million by 2030, to absorb all the new entrants to their labour markets.

The average unemployment rate across the 49 LDCs last year stood at 5.6%, but Kituyi said that youth unemployment in many countries was double the official figure.

And many of those considered employed were barely earning enough to survive in the informal sector, with a full 41% of those working in 2010 earning under $1.25 a day.

"The numbers are very frightening," Tesfachew said.

Read more on:    un  |  angola  |  ethiopia  |  africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.