There is a lot discussion on the impact of having a young population, especially with regards to providing jobs and opportunities. I was looking through the Ethiopian Jobs Creation Commission’s website and was very intrigued to learn a few of the data points on unemployment in Ethiopia. According to their information over 53 per cent of our population is part of the active labor force. Forty per cent of those that are in the active labor force are self employed. This is a huge indicator that we have a lot of entrepreneurial spirit in the country.
I was surprised to read that the national unemployment rate in Ethiopia is 4.5 per cent, as it surely feels like it is higher. But not all that are employed have the jobs they have been trained for, according to the data on the jobs creation commission website, 40 per cent are underemployed. The official definition of underemployment is “people in a labor force are employed at less than full-time or regular jobs or at jobs inadequate with respect to their training or economic needs”. This is a very serious problem as I consistently see people with degrees and certification in a certain area working in a position where they are over qualified and underpaid. This is a serious source of frustration.
Another important data point I found on the jobs creation commission website is that 25 per cent of youth aged 15 – 29 are unemployed. This is a number that I believe is quite conservative, as I suspect the unemployment rate within youth a much higher. This suspicion is supported another data point which shows that 2 million people join the labor force every year. Although there is no data on how many jobs are created every year, I highly doubt that the number would be anywhere near 2 million.
The reason I found myself on the website of the jobs creation commission was because I had been having discussion with friends who own their own businesses looking to hire young professionals. They all shared a common sentiment which was one of frustration. The challenge was not finding young professionals looking for jobs, there are plenty. The challenge was finding ones that would show up to the job regularly, on time, do the work or wanted to learn how to in a consistent matter. One of the people who had been looking to fill a position in his company told me that he had one job seeker come to the interview with a parent who kept answering all of the interview questions. Another one told me that he hired three young professionals after rigorous interview, and neither of them lasted a week. The reason being that they did not like that they had to wake up so early in the morning to beat traffic to drive and make it to work on time. Go figure!
When we were discussing this trying to figure out what is at the root of the problem, one of the employers made a very good time. These young professionals have most likely never been employed before they graduated. They are starting their very first real job after college. This means that they have not had the opportunity to understand the workings of the professional world before then. Although some department in universities require for students to get an apprenticeship position, it comes at the very end of their education, i.e. the last year. And the reward is not financial, rather in grades.
This has a huge impact on the quality of young professionals our universities are launching into the labor force every year. It does not mean anything if professionals cannot be professional. Although this may sound rudimentary, I walked away from my conversation with these employers wondering whether there should be a professional ethics class offered to every student in university, at different stages of their education. Employers are very much frustrated by the quality of professionals and many of them are willing to invest in the training of the young staff they hire. However it seems that the young professionals are not quite ready for the professional world.