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The ugly menace of unemployment

WAITING FOR A TURN—Some youths captured during a walk-in job interview recently

PROMOTING SKILLS ACQUISITION—Chakwera (back to camera)

For Jane Banda (not real name), studying and graduating with a Degree in Engineering at Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences was a dream come true.

Her future has been murky, she felt. Until after graduating when she started feeling that the mist would clear in no time.

Alas, about three years down the line, she was yet to secure a stable job.

“Now I just sit in my parent’s small shop at home selling groceries while waiting for a job opening,” she says.

Her case is not unique. Many Malawians are still out of the job market despite having the necessary skills and qualifications.

In Malawi—where more than half of the about 20 million population are the youth—unemployment and underemployment risks remain the most pressing concern.

The ugly menace of the vice has mostly been visible during ‘walk-in interviews’ where thousands jostle for the mass recruitment.

Graduates are not spared. They are either completely left out of the equation or are forced to vie for jobs not befitting their qualifications and skills.

In the run up to the June 2020 fresh Presidential elections, the Tonse Alliance partners had one captivating promise; to create a million jobs.

Three years down the line, President Lazarus Chakwera maintains that his administration has done its best to create jobs.

During the State of the Nation Address, President Chakwera stunned Malawians when he indicated that by September last year, the Tonse Alliance-led administration had created 1, 161, 000 jobs.

The President said that this figure has been arrived at following the launch of the jobs portal that is linked with the Labour Market Information System which according to him, is up and running.

He said this is also a job matching portal that facilitates electronic information exchange and enables job seekers to access vacancies and secure jobs through online platforms and it also tracks jobs created and provides real-time data.

“I therefore call upon the private sector to utilise this portal and report jobs created and jobs lost. As a case in point, as of September 2022, a total of 1,161,000 reported jobs were tracked in our systems.

“I must also mention, Madam Speaker, that since 2020, my Administration has given opportunities to 10,119 interns, offering them their first work experience, and in the new financial year, we are offering opportunities to 3600 youths,” he said.

However the president fell short of mentioning which sectors contributed to the job creation and what kind of jobs were created, raising fears that the figures lack proper backing.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) describes an employed person as aged 15 years or older who has worked for pay or profit for at least one hour during a given week.

Figures indicate that in 2021, unemployment in Malawi increased by seven percent from six percent in 2020 which is the year the Tonse Alliance administration clocked two years in power.

The economy has been growing at a snail’s pace, by 1.2 percent in 2022 and is not expected to recover beyond 2.7 percent in 2023. This is, however, not enough to create the desired job opportunities.

The private sector has lamented that the environment has not been conducive for the growth of industries.

In its 2022 business assessment report, the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) said 2022 alone was characterised by a blend of developments in the business operating environment filled with resurgent uncertainty.

It indicated that the economy experienced a number of economic shocks which posed challenges for businesses as well as the whole private sector.

The economic shocks which have affected businesses in 2022 have been both global economic shocks as well as domestic economic shocks.

“These shocks have had a huge negative impact on the business environment,” reads the report.

Economist Exley Sulumbu believes such kind of growth for an economy like Malawi has little bearing on the growth of Gross Domestic Product per capita which focuses on individuals.

He is of the view that even if the economy was really growing over time, a reflection would have been seen on the lives of people but is essentially stuck or going backwards.

“There is something wrong with this economy because its growth does not reflect the growth per capita which we need to be aiming at as well if we are to make development for the majority,” he said.

Agriculture remains Malawi’s top employer and the backbone of the country’s economy contributing heavily to its growth though the main cash crop, tobacco, is going down every year.

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