Some economic commentators and labour market analysts fear youth unemployment will be worse in Malawi as compared to other countries in the region if government does not heed calls to promote private sector development for employment creation.
A report released recently by the International Labour Organisation on employment trends for youth in 2016 shows that global youth unemployment will worsen in 2016.
The ILO forecast that the number of unemployed youth will rise by half a million in 2016 to reach 71 million.
Roughly, the global labour body estimates that 156 million youth in emerging and developing countries live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 per capita per day or in moderate poverty, between $1.90 and $3.10) despite being in employment.
And experts say the private sector will be key to ensuring that Malawi is able to absorb youth entering the labour market every year but that it will require government to implement systematic approaches to promote private sector development.
Professor of Economics at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, Ben Kalua, said the private sector needs incentives to be able to diversify to create jobs.
According to Kalua, a prohibitive business environment makes it difficult for a country to achieve structural transformation which is key to boosting employment creation.
“Economies in sub-Saharan Africa need to diversify within agriculture or primary production as well as outside agriculture to achieve economic development which will in the long run reduce unemployment rate,” he said.
But Kalua said Malawi unlike other countries in the region needs to do much more to diversify her economy so that it can generate enough jobs to absorb unemployed youth.
When he came into office, President Peter Mutharika elevated the Ministry of Labour to be among his government’s priority ministries, but labour unionists say the ministry has not been equipped with adequate resources to be able to fulfill the mandate to stimulate employment growth.
General Secretary of the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions, Pontias Kalichero, said the Ministry is perennially underfunded making it difficult for the ministry to stimulate employment creation.
Kalichero also said government needs to do much more than just running community colleges to deal with rising youth unemployment.
“We are yet to see the results and the outcomes from the programme and although it is good initiative, we cannot say we are where we would want to be. The formal economy it is shrinking every day which means the private sector is becoming thinner. Companies are shutting down and people are losing their jobs every day. So we need a more focused effort to deal with the problem,” he said.
And Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union, Hamilton Deleza, said general unemployment will continue to worsen in the country as there is a huge gap between people being added to the labour market against those that are being absorbed.
Deleza said the economy is failing to generate enough jobs because Malawi is failing to invest in the right industries to stimulate employment.
“The manufacturing sector is not ticking and as a result there are no jobs. So it is about identifying which sectors to invest but at the moment it seems as a country we are not really sure where to invest,” he said.
According to Deleza, Malawi needs to adopt a holistic approach to bring down unemployment figures.
“The community colleges is a long term approach but we need to also identify other sectors that can help to generate more jobs for our youth,” he said.
There have been calls that the government should engage long term solutions to address rampant unemployment levels in the country.
In its maiden labour survey report for the country released two years ago, the National Statistical Office put formal unemployment at 21 percent.
In reaction, economic commentators said it would be difficult to bring the figures down in the absence of clear strategies on how the country can achieve meaningful job growth and identifying investments needed so that the desired growth can be attained.
The ILO says the unemployment crisis is behind the rise in migration of young people abroad in search of better education and employment opportunities.
It says the willingness to migrate among youth is highest in sub- Saharan Africa.