Jan 13, 2022 10:46 AM | Article By: Sanna Jallow
Gambian electorates queuing to vote in the country’s local government election on 12th April in 2018 (Photo: Mustapha Ceesay)
Following the presidential election in December, Gambian voters are all set to make another important decision as they prepare to vote in the upcoming parliamentary election in April and the local government election next year. On top of the agenda, especially for young Gambians, is the high unemployment rate, which forced many into criminal activities as well as endangering their lives on a perilous journey to Europe, using the backway in search of greener pastures.
According to the 2018 Labour Force Survey conducted by the Gambia Bureau of Statistics’ (GBoS), the youth unemployment rate has increased to 41.5%.
A 20-year-old, Nfamara Jammeh, a native of Banjul said they would vote for the candidate who will advocate youth employment during the parliamentary election so that the current government will find a solution to solve the youth unemployment in the country in 2022.
The consequence of youth unemployment has been tipped to be the cause of the rising violent crime, armed robbery, theft, and prostitution in the country.
Jammeh added when the unemployment rate is high in a country, it would cause crimes such as theft, robbery, and certain immoral behaviours in the society.
Jammeh urged the government to ensure that the rate of unemployment is reduced by allowing investors to create more job opportunities for the young people of this country.
He stressed that it is frustrating for youngsters to complete more than a decade of expensive education and suffer afterward without jobs.
According to the national employment policy and action plan 2022 to 2030, glaring employment deficits both in terms of levels and quality highlight the need for comprehensive national employment policies that provide a clear framework for addressing working poverty, creating jobs, increasing earnings of male and female employees and decreasing youth unemployment and discouragement.
Another youth, Lamin Fofana, a 20-year-old who lives in Abuko, said lack of employment is affecting him as job opportunities are rarely available causing his frustration.
“We are the youth, and we need jobs to earn a living. We are tired of depending on our parents for a living,” he lamented.
He said lack of employment has pushed him away from his community stigmatisation that he lacks ambition since he had completed secondary school education.
In terms of voting, Fofana decided that he will vote for a parliamentary candidate who is committed to supporting policies that would reduce unemployment among youth.
According to the GBoS Labour Force Survey, among the working-age population, 14.9 percent are economically active while 85 percent are usually economically inactive. And for those who were outside the labour force, 39.8 percent are between the ages 15 to 24 and 31 percent are of the ages 36-64 while 29 percent are between 25-35 years.
Mamadou Jallow, a 25-year-old who lives in Wellingara in the West Coast Region, said he will only vote for candidates who will advocate for youth empowerment during the parliamentary and local government election in 2023.
He believed the local government should play a key role by rightfully implementing the taxes paid to the area councils in which 60 percent is mandated to be ploughed back to taxpayers through development.
“Community development can create job opportunities for the youth so during the parliamentary election, I will vote for the one (candidate) who will advocate for the creation of jobs in my community because it will help to reduce the unemployment rate among youth,'' he said.
Alpha Dem, 23, a resident of Old Yundum, said: “We need candidates who will transform [local government] economies and the infrastructure which will improve our opportunity to acquire jobs and reduce the involvement of youth in criminal activities.”
A senior media assistant at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Sulayman Ceesay, said the factors responsible for youth unemployment in the Gambia are the quality and relevance of the education system, inflexible labour market, and regulation that in turn create a situation of dependency.
“The inadequate skills, lack of experience and a mismatch between education and training and requisite job skills with low space job creations combined with the lack of big industries and the low investment in Agriculture in the Gambia are direct factors creating challenges for youth unemployment in the country,” he said.
Ceesay said the Government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports is very much committed to the development, empowerment, and employability of young people as their priority.
The ministry recently launched the youth revolving funds to support young people who are into entrepreneurship in order to improve or expand young people's businesses, he said.
Lamin Darboe, the former Director of the National Youth Council, recommended the need for economic transformation that will see the creation of a production-based economy that would give young people work in the manufacturing industries as well as in the production value chain.
“There is a mismatch between our education and the needs of the economy,” he said, reiterating Ceesay’s point. “We are not providing our youth with the required technical skills in engineering and entrepreneurship to ease their employability.''
According to him, millions are invested in the construction of roads and bridges but the funds go to foreign companies to deliver those services. He said that some job preferences have some socio-cultural stigma and stereotypes around some job functions, which makes the youth not opt for such kinds of work.
“The solution to youth unemployment which will also lead to a reduction of crime rate is to adjust the economic system from tax-based to manufacturing and production. Adjust the curricula to suit the labour demands of the economy and standardisation of the employment landscape in the Gambia,” he stated.
The ruling party’s manifesto promises the prioritization of employment creation to graduates and skills persons. It stated that more skills training acquisition will be supported while the government will create industries to absorb job seekers to enhance a robust Public-Private-Partnership to support development agenda.
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