Occasional Paper

Challenge of African Youth Unemployment

Many African youth face high unemployment or employment in low-wage temporary jobs that compound their poverty, especially in northern and southern Africa. Urban areas have much higher rates of unemployment than rural areas—as do women than men—and, it seems, higher income countries. The reasons are similar across the continent—relatively rapid economic growth with inadequate job creation, and a youth population bulge with few skills relevant to the labor market reflecting an educational system that fails to prepare youth for existing jobs. For female youth, early marriage associated with withdrawal from the labor force is exacerbated by greater discrimination because employers believe that they will soon get married and leave their job. Among the key lessons for addressing youth unemployment are that it requires integrated, comprehensive, and long-term approaches that ensure rural development; educational systems that provide marketable skills; and legislation that incentivizes business to hire youth. The formal sector is incapable of creating enough jobs for the many new youth entrants to the labor market. So the informal sector must be recognized as an opportunity, not a nuisance, and be empowered to do even more by youth employment policy.