Uganda: The urgent need for jobs

Kampala, Uganda

The Ugandan authorities recently released their latest employment figures. They were not a pretty sight – out of 700,000 Ugandans who join the job market every year, only 90,000 find employment. Of these a large proportion are working involuntarily part-time or are pushed into self-employment.

Out of 700,000 Ugandans who join the job market every year, only 90,000 find employment.

Naturally, Ugandan policy-makers are keen to understand the root causes of such high rates of unemployment and underemployment and, by doing so, to identify ways to reverse this worrying trend.

And while the media have talked of Uganda’s jobless growth and a skills-gap among graduates, our initial observations are inviting us to reconsider these conclusions.

Our research project, working in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in Uganda, seeks to assess Uganda’s employment challenge and to identify opportunities for the creation of decent work for the fast-growing labour force.

Jobs in agriculture

Ugandan economic growth has slowed down in recent years hampering its ability to create the much-needed decent jobs

The project began in November 2016 with an initial visit to Kampala where we formed a 4-person research team and met with various stakeholders, including government officials, representatives of workers’ and employers’ organisations. We had previously visited Kampala and became quickly aware that the current economic context is quite different from when we undertook an earlier study in 2010.

Observations

First, Ugandan economic growth has slowed down in recent years hampering its ability to create the much-needed decent jobs.

Second, where economic growth has occurred it has been limited to sectors that have done little to create decent work for a large number of labour market entrants. Instead Uganda has witnessed a proliferation of self-employment in agriculture or petty trading in the services sector.

Third, many young people, especially women, have been left out of the formal labour market entirely, resulting in a growing informal sector and concerns over Uganda’s ability to raise productivity levels.

These are a set of preliminary observations and, with the project still in its early stages, we hope to move forward by investigating these issues in greater depth. This will involve a combination of desk-based research as well as qualitative research, including through participatory workshop and in-depth interviews with those with a stake in job-creation in Uganda. For this purpose, we will undertake a set of further return visits and hope to present our final report by the end of June 2017.

This will include proposals for concrete solutions and policy suggestions to move the economy to a path of sustainable growth for decent employment-creation. Watch this space for further updates.

The project is funded by the UN’s International Labour Organisation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Dr Hannah Bargawi and Dr Elisa Van Waeyenberge, Economics Department at SOAS

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