A recent report by the National Planning Authority (NPA) reveals that 4.2 million young people in Uganda, which is 41 percent of the country’s youth population, are neither employed nor in education or training, commonly referred to as NEETs.
The report points out that these young people, aged 18 to 29, are facing difficulties in finding jobs or participating in educational and societal activities. Despite the country generating 1.6 million jobs from 2016 to 2021, many youths still struggle to secure employment or create their own opportunities. This has caused the unemployment rate to rise from 13 percent to 16.5 percent. The number of NEETs has increased by 8.4 percent over the past decade, going from 2.5 million to the current 4.2 million, with a projection to reach 5.8 million by 2031/32 if no changes are made.
Additionally, the report highlights that the distribution of NEETs is linked to regional poverty levels in Uganda. Regions with higher poverty rates, such as Bukedi (61.4 percent), Lango (49.3 percent), Elgon (44.1 percent), Busoga (43.5 percent), Bunyoro (42.5 percent), and Kigezi (42.1 percent), have higher concentrations of NEETs. Most of these young people lack skills (58 percent), come from large impoverished rural households, face disabilities, and are often between the ages of 25 to 27.
During the report’s launch in Kampala, Hamis Mugendawala, the NPA manager for policy research, identified various factors contributing to the NEETs issue. Many young NEETs leave school early due to financial constraints, and gender roles in society also play a role, with females more likely to give up school or work due to these roles.
The socioeconomic status of one’s family is another significant factor. Youth from wealthier households have a lower likelihood of becoming NEETs (27 percent), while those from poorer backgrounds have a 60 percent chance.
Mugendawala stressed that NEETs have a substantial economic impact on the country, affecting individual incomes, households, communities, and even the nation’s GDP.
This report emerges as Uganda has made significant investments in youth empowerment and development initiatives. However, agriculture remains the primary source of jobs in the country, offering potential opportunities for NEETs. Yet, they often prefer jobs with guaranteed daily incomes, like sand mining and stone quarrying. Those interested in agriculture encounter challenges related to land ownership. Additionally, NEETs face barriers to reskilling, which could help them enter the labor market.
Mugendawala mentioned that these barriers primarily involve financial and structural issues. The Presidential Industrial Zonal Skilling Hubs have shown promise, but they also have limitations.
On the other hand, Martin Wandera, the director for labor, employment, and occupational safety and health at the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, expressed concerns about the report. He suggested that it should be revised to align with updated statistics from the Ministry of Gender. He pointed out that the report excluded important factors like housewives and variations in working-age populations. According to Wandera, when considering all relevant factors and categorizations, the number of NEETs is around 2.5 million, reducing the concern to 24 percent instead of 41 percent.
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