Wednesday, June 7


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With Alkali Cham

 This edition of the voice youth Bantaba shifts a little bit to The Gambia national youth policy covering 2018 to 2028. The youth policy being a legal instrument has embodied vital pieces of information interested in the welfare of young people which can use to help plan whatever project for the best interest of young people.

Below is the excerpt from the National Youth Policy 2018 to 2028.

 “With a population of 1,882,450 people (2013 Population and Housing Survey), the share of the youth aged 13-30 years continues to grow. The youth population constituted 690,836 at the time of the 2013 Population and Housing Census representing 37.2 percent of the total population. 

The 2013 Census report continues to highlight the youth characteristic in the following revealing manner:

 There was slightly more female youth than males—52.8 percent and 47.2 percent respectively. Of a total youth population of 690,836, 12.0 percent were aged between 13 and 14 years, 31.0 percent between 15 and 19 years, 26.6 percent between 20 and 24 years, 23.1 percent between 25 and 29 years, and 7.3 percent aged 30 years. The age distribution by sex follows a similar pattern.

 The youth are almost equally distributed between urban and rural areas—50.1 percent in urban areas and 49.9 percent living in rural areas. 

However, slightly more male youth lived in urban areas—63.0 percent, in contrast with 60.3 percent of females due partly to sex selectivity of migration with males more likely to migrate than females. Females out-numbered males across all ages and geographical locations except for Banjul LGA where there were slightly more males than females.

 Information on the educational attainment of the youth is important for gauging the quality of the labour force. Educational attainment of the youth has been analysed considering three aspects namely—those who have never attended school, those currently going to school, and those who attended in the past. Overall, 32.1 percent of the youth have never attended school, while 33.0 percent were attending school at the time of the census, and 34.9 percent attended in the past.

 It was further reported that the developing world is witnessing a youth bulge, especially in sub-Saharan Africa with its concomitant demand for education and employment. These two variables are closely linked as one’s level of education largely determines their employability and employment status. Hence the need for greater opportunities to develop skills that are needed for participation in the labour market increases with the increasing youth population. It is therefore important to have a clear idea about the educational attainment of the youth to determine the extent to which the supply of skills matches the demand. Education is also an important factor shaping economic and labour market outcomes— productivity and competitiveness and provides insights into the quality of a country’s labour force and informs policy decisions. Thirty-two percent of the youth have never been to school, 16.0 percent attained primary education, 23.0 percent lower secondary and 24.0 percent reached upper secondary level. Only one percent had vocational education and three percent reached tertiary level. Except for primary education, female youth lagged behind males at all levels of education. A similar pattern was observed between rural and urban areas.

 Economic activity is a key social variable that measures labour force participation that supports the personal quest to move out of poverty. It is even more critical for the economy to generate decent jobs to absorb the youth entering the labour market for them to have a sense of belonging. Out of the 690,836 youth, 43.1 percent were economically active and 56.9 percent inactive. Being economically active tends to grow with increasing age – for example, over 71 percent of youth aged 30 years were economically active, in contrast with about 14 percent of 13/14-year-old youngsters. Among the female youth, 39.5 percent were economically active compared to 46.7 percent of their male counterparts.

Nonetheless, the youth bear a disproportionate share of the unemployed probably due to a lack of skills, or a mismatch between the skills they possess and those demanded in the labour market. The share of youth unemployment in total unemployment was about 70 percent while the ratio of youth unemployment to adult unemployment was also high—2.3. This means that for every adult who was unemployed, there were more than two youths in that situation.

 The 2013 census report states that a youthful population could be an asset to a nation if the youth have the necessary education and employable skills to participate in national development processes. As stated earlier, a healthy and vibrant youth population is an asset for a nation not only for what it offers now but also in the future. This is more so for a country like The Gambia with very few natural resource endowments. However, the prospects for numerous youths in The Gambia appear bleak, as they lack the pre-requisite for successful life outcomes— education and skills.

 The proportion of youth not in employment, education, or training (the NEET rate), is a broad measure of untapped potential of youth. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the NEET group is ‘neither improving their future employability through investment in skills nor gaining experience through employment. As such, they are particularly at risk of both labour market and social exclusion. ILO normally estimates the NEET rate for the population aged 15-24 years, which is the United Nations’ definition of youth. However, in The Gambia, the youth is defined as all persons aged between 15 and 35. The NEET rate is therefore estimated for this group as 27.5 percent. It is worth mentioning that the 2013 Census did not ask questions about participation in training. The NEET is thus estimated using two variables—not employed, and not in education (attending school). Interpretation of the estimated NEET rate should therefore be made with caution.

 In order to tap into the potential of the youth, efforts at improving their education and skills should be intensified. It is a well-known fact that the economic success of ‘East Asian Tigers’— Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan—was due mainly to investment in skills development and higher educational attainment for their youth.

 In view of The Gambia’s youth situation, the growing youthful population of The Gambia raises many questions, and among them is employment, and assuring a decent standard of living, which are all major national challenges. According to the Labour Force Survey 2018, despite substantial improvements in access to basic education and steady economic growth, The Gambia still faces considerable challenges concerning reducing poverty. Nearly 60 percent of the poor in The Gambia are under the age of 20 years. Youths face significant challenges concerning employment outcomes, such as a very difficult transition from school to work, and very low levels of education and training.

 In terms of education levels, a significant proportion of young people (especially in rural areas) leave school early, in part due to what are perceived to be low returns on education. School attendance decreases substantially between 15 and 19 years, but reduced retention rates are not accompanied by a similar increase in employment, meaning that many students drop out of school to become inactive. Young people in rural areas leave school earlier than young people in urban areas. Some 73 percent of the 15 to 17 years age group in urban areas are still in school, against 61 percent in rural areas. Many of those who do receive high-quality education and training choose to migrate to the Greater Banjul Area or sometimes overseas. In a country where more than half the population is under the age of 20 years, these trends are worrisome.

 Young people living in cities and towns are much more likely to be unemployed than their rural counterparts. This again underscores the different nature of urban and rural economies and in particular, the important role that the agriculture sector plays in absorbing young rural workers. Young people are more likely than adults to be unemployed or jobless. The picture does however vary according to the area of residence. Rural unemployment is low and varies little across the whole age spectrum, predominantly as a result of these workers being absorbed into the agricultural sector. Urban unemployment peaks for young adults, aged 20 to 24 years.

 Overall, young workers are employed in jobs of low quality, and high levels of informality. Female youth are also much more likely to be self-employed (46 percent, versus 32 percent for male youth). The agriculture sector is described as the key to investing in the youth and accounts for 41.5 percent of employed youth aged 13-30 years with 30.7 percent male and 52.2 percent female. More than half of National Youth Policy of The Gambia 2019 – 2028.”