As a matter of fact, young people globally have been hit particularly hard by the global economic turmoil. Unemployment rates of young people are much higher than those of adults in most countries in the world. This may be partly because they are often the first to let go as competition for entry-level positions grows stronger with each high school graduating class that enters the labour market.
The young people of The Gambia are no exception and their situation is as challenging as ever. The expectation of the need for economic growth that would translate into more and better jobs is really high. Within the next five or ten years, more young people will leave the education system and looking for jobs. This will put a lot of pressure on government and at current rates, not enough jobs are being created to accommodate the ever growing number of graduates. In fact, government has conceded to the fact that it would not be able to create all the jobs that these young people are expecting.
However, there has to be a way out. While self-employment may not be a bad thing to do, in the overwhelming majority of cases, it reflects the lack of alternatives and implies precarious living conditions. This cast an unfavourable light on a country’s growth performance. It is fair though to state that the government is doing what it could to offer economic and social opportunities to the country’s younger generation. It just has not been coming at a pace that most young people would want.
Clearly, government cannot provide all the jobs that young people are expecting. What it can quite remarkably do, however, is to help the private sector create the jobs. Everywhere in the world, large firms, both domestic and multinational, are the main providers of jobs that pay good wages. The government will need to work on this area if it is truly interested in arresting the issue of youth unemployment.
There is also the need to promote entrepreneurship in young people. Jobs should also come from smaller firms and others such as trading in simple goods, providing repair service or simple manufacturing like furniture-making. Others include little technological outfits and internet companies providing modern services to a fast-growing communications industry. Many of these small enterprises show strong potential and obtain huge return on their capital. They face obstacles that our government can do something about.
Admittedly, our government needs to start thinking high on entrepreneurship development as the new route for job creation. In as much as many small entrepreneurs in the country do not have access to loans that could allow them to grow their businesses, government should devise incentives for banks to move closer to small firms. Gambian banks have are not interested in giving out loans to start-ups and government should intervene. At the same time, government could also strive to make the education that our young people receive more relevant to what they need to know in the world of work. A lot of Gambian youths nowadays suffer from chronic skills mismatches. They do go to school, even university level now, but many do not obtain the practical skills that employers are seeking.
Therefore, giving this tough time for our young people, there is the need to widen the job creation base of the country. Government will have to take the lead that it so very well deserves. But in order to promote a real job creation base, more productive activities would need to be fostered and strengthened.]]>