Urban Youth Unemployment: Which Way to Go?

Unemployment is a common global challenge responsible for the increasing instabilities recorded in recent years and putting pressure governments to reform and create meaningful policies to reduce it, so that citizens realize their dreams of career, social, economic and spiritual fulfillment. Without those life goals, the citizens are reduced to miserable; psychologically insecure, healthily insecure, food-wise insecure, personally or physically insecure, economically insecure, politically insecure, and spiritually insecure.

The phenomenon is massive in urban areas, where land is scarce, opportunities for development are few, and society is highly classified to favor access of national resources and benefit from the available resources by a given class of people. In the developing countries favor goes to members of the ruling families and their close friends.

For a country like Uganda, agriculture, which presently employs 70% of the population directly or indirectly has land (the most important factor of production) limited to areas distant from urban centers yet lacking technological awareness, leadership foresight and priorities, and integrity.

Urbanization influences population patterns. It is constantly spreading in rural and semi-rural areas, leading to shifts in development statuses of those areas from being merely periodical auction centers to trading centers, from trading centers to towns, from towns to municipalities, and from municipalities to cities of various degrees of modernization.

The developments come with attractions to mainly young people in form of entertainment, modern dressing styles, generally good life, jobs of all scales, better education, better health facilities, better market prices or market for items, places for adventure, and areas to best nurse dreams for success.

Rapid urbanization and industrialization makes a strong case for rural urban areas. In Uganda, the present and former industrial parks have neighborhoods infested by congested settlements by people, who came from distant areas of the country; as far as Arua, Teso, Lango, Acholi, Karamoja, Toro, Ankole and so on. To some, several generations have risen up in and around urban settlements.

In pursuit of good life and prosperity, internal immigrants are faced with stiff competition for development opportunities, which suffocates their ambitions; forced to resort to unethical and crude means of reaching life goals like bribery and corruption in recruitment institutions while frustrated youths move in robberies or killing to survival, or remain a time-bomb for future violence.

Congestion adds lots of seemingly invisible yet calamitous events. Daily life frustrations generally yield aggressive attitudes to the hardy personalities, and that is furthered in day-to-day errands like driving and health decision-making for other road users. Ever occurring accidents are thus inevitable and threaten lives. But also encroachment on forestland and wetlands has led to destruction of the environment and, in turn, worsened the livelihood situation through global warming, water scarcity, and famine.

The trend provokes concern among the political class, barely indicating it their responsibility to resolve the crises. When no solution is found, the countries run done into the valleys of battles to vent their frustrations or for the leaders to defend their greed and anti-people policies. Such were direct outcomes of the Arab spring revolutions in 2011 and of the on-going protests around the world as new approaches to making points to those in power, who are obliged to change the statuesque; about unemployment and unbearable economic situations. In some countries, however, citizens have been forced to assimilate or to stomach their troubles, without having to express dissatisfaction. Governments achieve that through highly stringent laws.

From the mental public health perspective that gives rise to a sick population; very aggressive and destructive one, even to the personal-self. Besides, the population is so poor that it cannot afford basic needs, including proper nutrition and health care, or not even in position to exercise the discipline of preventive health. The biggest health challenge in developing countries has been maternal health.

Today, conception is a ‘junction’ between life and death. Citizens are too poor to afford critical care services, which leaves them with one choice; public health care facility, where negligence, lack of motivation, and limited personnel add to the ‘insult.’ Reducing the unemployment burden, among other anti-poverty initiatives could provide a new lease of life for citizens.

Uganda is one of the most corrupt nations in the world with a poor attitude towards the fight against corruption. Prosecution of corrupt people is discriminative. And because corruption is highly structured, the leadership is culpable. So the heads of anti-corruption crusades are forced to reach a compromise with corrupt administration in order to save their jobs.

But population growth is at uncontrollable levels rendering governance difficult. Unless more resources are identified to keep with the pace of increasing population, so that industrialization is supported and the development the service sector reinforced to generate opportunities for job seekers and promote entry into production of private individuals, urban unemployment will be prevalent.

Government who are architects of science training have gone further to propose higher salaries to science professionals and incentives to science training. This however is another source of inequality and future disharmony. And there is no way security of the country can be guaranteed amidst widespread unemployment, high peak poverty, food insecurity, rising human insecurity, and ecological insecurity. The focus of professionalizing the army to fight physical insecurities can always be a temporary fix and would not stand without the dealing with other forms of insecurity. However, it can facilitate their realization.

Insecurity has been prevalent since 2005 climaxing into the 2011 protests expressing discontent about the economy and its managers. These though have been responded to by force of arms rather than through addressing real issues: urban unemployment.

Despite the repressive approach to suppressing protests, inward responses (maladaptive) and interpersonal conflicts equally prevalent while waiting for widespread violence and eventual political collapse. Domestic violence was equally high in 2011 and early part of 2012. It is unthinkable for tax officials go about coercing citizens to pay tax when no income-generating activities exist for them to earn taxable incomes. As a consequence, the government runs out of revenues to run essential economic development initiatives.

While the government of Uganda is keen to attract foreign investors, it is beginning to grade them to fit the real demands of its nation. And already the immigrations have taken a step to scrutinize the so-called investors for validity authorization to work in the country. If this is emphasized foreign investment will turn out to be meaningful to the economy. It will be interesting approach encouraging industrialization outside urban areas, as it would not only help create employment but also to de-congest the city, to facilitate protection of wetlands, and to facilitate improvement of public health. The country’s monitoring and evaluation system is influenced by the history of dictatorship, where passing decrees without accountability is the norm. It is another case of a structural problem that requires years of rehabilitation to make the M & E potent and ensure support to citizens’ economic dreams. The same is the case with the 77% lack of acknowledge of government efforts to eradicate poverty.

The choice over what training program to pursue is dependent largely on psychological and physical qualities. Unfortunately, the present economic environment shows limited opportunities in the public sector while its governance is marred with corruption, which chokes fair distribution of development opportunities. Current education, therefore, ceases to concentrate on ascertaining job availability for recent graduates to providing general knowledge and skills to adapt to numerous career roles and environment needs. For example, where the public sector fails to serve its people, the freely welcoming and accommodating private sector can be taken advantage of by graduates in a short-run while awaiting the jobs of their dreams. In fact, any training program should be one that prepares students for creative and management roles to survive and thrive in all situations.

It is notable that absence of leadership to manage the population and welfare needs (through effective planning, innovations, and employment) of the people is responsible for the limited participation in production process, poverty, widespread discontent, and violent protests. The youths have particularly been marginalized until early this year when funds were set aside to support youth initiatives. Only 37% showed they could explore their potential and rise to greater levels of development.

The congestion is one aspect of urban living that adds to the frustration and misery of unemployment. Encouraging industrialization away from congested areas would help to evenly spread development, control migrations, manage well health and security issues, and, of course, provide employment opportunities to youths in their upcountry home areas.

The recruitment system is not only a victim of circumstances, as high population and limited opportunities (or stiff competition) for jobs in both the private sector and government, but also that background prompts job-seekers and recruitment agencies to apply unethical ways to achieve a common objective: ‘give me I give.’ That makes the recruitment system unfair as was showed at 78%.

Good investment is one which puts into perspective national resources, national needs, and national interests for sustainable well-being of a country’s citizens. For example, agriculture, being the biggest employer at 70% to 76% should have been given priority by decision makers and investment promoters. Unfortunately, the new threat (land grabbing) is spreading fast across the country-side and denying peasants the main source of livelihood (food production). Conflict is always a direct outcome of poor investment as was indicated by 52% dissatisfaction after it failed to address the needs and interests of the nation.

Swift development according to desired time-frames cannot occur without the critical tool of monitoring and evaluation. It is an excellent application where people share a common background, common aspirations, common challenges, and have a shared responsibility in achieving common goals. However, the traditional is still new and institutionally weak. It is mostly emphasized in civil society bodies and found within them; it is the norm. With it limited in government institutions, impact in line with the aspirations of the people, too, is limited. Instead citizens are only preyed on by both their leaders, local capitalists (or agents of foreign firms), and foreign firms at the expense of the welfare of its people as they further give room to environment degradation, corruption, institutional decay, and entrenched citizens miseries. That explains the constant conflict between government and its people with dissatisfaction of the monitoring and evaluation tool at 79%.

While new thinking presses on innovations and entrepreneurship development, away from job seeking behavior, that thinking need to be concreted and developed across the country with a nationalistic backing of the government. Doing so would not only help develop citizen hidden potentials, but work to support other citizens through creation of employment opportunities, and provide an opportunity for every Ugandan to have some kind of project they run, for short and long-term benefit. Indeed a job-maker, at some point, dictates how much he or she would earn and when to take holidays, an element that lack or limited in most work-places. Otherwise, the focus of government, like other regimes elsewhere in Africa to focus on repressive tactics as remedies to popular discontent, provide no solutions, only worsens the situation.