Saturday, March 24, 2012

GAMBIA: Unemployment, Underemployment Pose Significant Challenge

The Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment’s  Senior Human Resource Officer, Mr. Mamadi Dampha, has said that as stated in the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE),unemployment and underemployment pose significant challenge to the Gambia.
Dampha was speaking on behalf of his boss, Minister  Kebba  Touray at a day’s forum on  the theme “Walk For Employment”, held at the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, and graced by members of the Youth Employment Network of The Gambia, simply put YEN.
“Each year the labour market demonstrates  weak  absorption capacity as growing numbers of Gambians demand jobs that do not exist and that durable jobs are key to eradicate poverty,”  the Ministry official stated. He stated that in response to the increasing unemployment and poverty in the Gambia, particularly among women and youths, the Ministry of Youths and Sports has adopted some strategies. 

He cited strategies such as working through partner institutions to provide mentoring and training, encouraging financial institutions to provide low interest loans especially to the youths as part of their corporate social responsibility, and advocating for  expanded poverty eradication programmes.
The successful implementation of these strategies, Dampha continued, would not be achieved if young people do not meet their part of the bargain which requires a change of attitude towards skills and technical vocational education training. 
Dampha challenged the Youth Employment  Network Gambia  Chapter to keep up the momentum to ensure that their goals are met through their mandate, and bring about the positive change that every Gambian is yearning for. 
Speaking on behalf of the Youths and Sports Minister, Deputy Permanent Secretary Sutay Jawo said youth employment is  a big challenge, not only social but an economic one as well.
Pointing to the national youth policy of the Gambia 2009-2018, he said it’s realized that poverty is a major issue when it comes to youth;and studies have shown that poverty is increasing in the Gambia and the most affected people are the youths.
On the other side of it, DPS Jawo explained that out-of-school youths need post basic education skills training in addition, to assist them to get started in petty trading and small businesses. Therefore, limited access to information leads to dire circumstances for youth. 
He also talked about the youth dimension of poverty; paucity of data notwithstanding the Gambia has problem of youth unemployment, especially those that have limited skills. 
But Jawo noted that PRSP II focus on the problem of youth unemployment through various approaches including supporting private sector investment that creates jobs for the youths, increasing access to productive assets particularly credit by the youth, and training the youth to increase their employability. 
He said the problems youths often face are lack of basic formal education resulting in high level of unemployment particularly for girls, lack of access to credit and micro-finance facilities and lack of training in informal jobs to help create self-employment and skills. 
“Lack of mentoring within the society, because most young people opined that if they can get an older person who can mentor them they can and will do much better in life. Mentoring is important, especially in an investment programme for youths,” the DPS pointed out.
He described mentoring as one of the greatest investments for youth, especially if they are to take their rightful place in society. 
Attitude toward ourselves in terms of self confidence and self-esteem is also lacking in youths, he observed, and he is of the view that these problems could be attributed to lack of information, education, guidance in appropriate training and counseling on related issues. 
Youth development,remaked Jawo, has become a great concern not only for parents but also governments and  other agencies and stakeholders. 
To address these problems, he said his ministry has identified some  strategies amongwich is to improve the income earning capacities of youth and significantly contribute towards their economic empowerment.
That in turn will improve their level of involvement in making decision affecting them at both household and community levels. 
The Youth and Sports official also pointed to assisting youths with farming inputs such as land, fertilizers and machinery, positing that  if young people change their attitude towards livelihood and entrepreneurship, the Gambia would achieve Vision 2020 and the Silicon Valley in a short possible time. 
For her part, the Gamjobs National Project Coordinator, Mrs. Salimatta E.T Touray said studies have shown that nearly 60 percent of the poor in the Gambia are under the age of 20. 
She added that young people have to deal with huge challenges with respect to employment outcomes, such as a very difficult transition from school to work with very low levels of education and training. 
on education levels, she noted that a significant proportion of young people (especially in the rural areas) leave school early, in part due to what is perceived to be low returns of education. 
“Many of those who do receive high quality education and training choose to emigrate. In a country where more than half the population is under the age of 20, these trends are worrisome,” she lamented. 
The Gamjobs senior official however, pointed out the government has created the conducive environment for young people to thrive as evidenced by youth policies, strategies and other initiatives under the Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Youths and Sports, and recentl, trade through the Gamjobs project. 
Mrs. Touray explained that Gamjobs was launched in 2007 and its key objective is to create employment; develop a skilled, versatile, dynamic and efficient workforce and create opportunities for wage and self-employment in the formal and informal economy. 
She added that Gamjobs is anchored around four priority areas among which are mainstreaming employment into national macroeconomic and social policies, strengthening labour market policies and institutions. Establishment of an enterprise and skills development training fund for self-employment and promoting labour-intensive technologies in public works programmes to create employment, was also highlighted, as she informed the gathering that the Gamjobs project has been in existence for five years noe.
 In terms of achievements, special employment initiatives targeting women and youth in an effort to combat rising unemployment, underemployment and poverty have been undertaken to address the skill gaps. 
She explained that Gamjobs in partnership with National Training Authority (NTA), training institutions and master crafts persons are promoting TVET in sewing, cookery, hairdressing, tie-dye, soap making, food processing, auto-mechanic, agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, carpentry, construction, electrical installation, ICT and mobile repairs.
According to Madam Touray, in terms of impacts, thus far, over 388 young people have been trained in entrepreneurship, 1288 women and youth trained in various skills, 223 opportunities have been created through the Labour Intensive Programme, Unique Solutions Co., RLG, NEDI and NYSS.
She said while under the Women’s   Bureau, 2977 women were assisted with start-up loans during the first disbursement of 2010-2012, about 3200 employment opportunities were created. 
Mr. Nfamara Jawneh, Advocacy and Communication Officer, Youth Employment Network (YEN) said unemployment among youths is a crosscutting issue that needs urgent attention and all hands should be on deck to address it. 
He said YEN is a non-profitable body and their aim is not to provide employment for youth, but rather they are there to advocate for employment opportunities for the youths and their welfare, acknowledging that opportunities are there but not enough. 
“Employment is a right not a privilege,” Jawneh stressed, as  called for attitudinal change a mong youths and warned them of “job selective”. Other speakers included  Mr.Abdou.F.B Boye, National Coordinator of YEN; and Joseph Peacock, Acting Director YMCA.

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