Tuesday, March 6, 2012

THE STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE IN A FRAIL LABOR MARKET

ByDaniel Muhau,

Pius Makoti, a 23-year-old university marketing graduate has little to celebrate in his new career. He got a fallback commerce-teaching job after failing to secure a marketing job for a whole three years.

Though working for an elite international school means he earns enough for a decent living, he still hasn’t got the fulfillment he had been looking forward to while in university. Such a dilemma is not an uncommon experience among today’s university graduates.

Jobs are still hard to get for many young graduates, four years since the sharp contraction in global economic activity that began in the closing months of 2008.

In the ‘Global Employment Trends Update 2011: The challenges of jobs recovery’, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) says the global labour market has continued to decline as unemployment remains elevated.

Continued rise in joblessness

According to the report, there has been an uneven recovery in labour markets, with a continued rise in joblessness but a steady to slightly improving unemployment picture in most developing countries.

Since 2007, the number of unemployed youth (aged 15–24) has remained high at 77.7 million globally by 2010, according to the International Labour Organisation. The global youth unemployment rate stood at 12.6 per cent in 2010, up from 11.8 per cent in 2007, but down slightly from 12.8 per cent in 2009.

In Tanzania, the situation is by no means an exception. The army of unemployed youth in the country could swell by an extra 1.2 million by 2015, experts warned at a forum held in Dar es Salaam at the end of last year.

And according to the World Bank 2010 report, there are about 850,000 labour force entrants aged between 15 and 24. This puts a lot of pressure on the labour market, which by all indications has not significantly grown since the global economic crisis.

Since 2006, Tanzania has not carried out a comprehensive labour survey. But the general rate of unemployment is estimated to have fallen to 10.7 per cent in 2011, from the 11.7 per cent recorded in 2006, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

By 2011, there were an estimated 2,368,672 unemployed persons, mostly youth, whose unemployment rate as of last year was projected to be around 13.4 per cent.

The government is expected to conduct a new Intergrated Labour Force survey sometime next year, an official from the National Bureau of Statistics was quoted as saying in the press recently.

Apparently, as in many other countries worldwide, an increasing number of young graduates are now finding themselves settling for whatever comes their way.

For instance, this can be witnessed in the growth in employment of non-traditional teachers, which to an extent implies that there are widespread shortages of qualified job applicants.

Struggle for survival

The struggle for survival in the job market has intensified in recent years due to the radical changes in the world of work.

In fact, the ever-changing nature of the labour market is very much easily noticed in urban areas.
“It has become survival of the fittest, and in most cases we find ourselves with no option but to eat whatever is on the table,” says Pius, 24, in an interview with Success.

However, official figures released by the ministry of Labour, Employment and Youth show that over a million jobs were created between 2005 and December 2008.

The statistics show that the private sector created 93.2 per cent of the jobs while the public service accounts for less than 10 per cent.

Yet amid this significant progress in the country, most young graduates are finding it even harder to get jobs.
According to the United Nations agency for education (Unesco), the problem in most developing countries is not merely the dwindling job opportunities.

It says in a report that during the past several decades a mismatch has been evident in many countries between the skills imparted by the national education system and those demanded by the workplace.

“This mismatch has been exacerbated in recent years with the integration of new technologies (and cultures) in almost every sphere of professional activity,” it notes in a 2002 report on vocational training in the 21st century.

The report highlights an issue that has been percolating among education circles: That major education reforms are long overdue in Tanzania; that the reforms should include more emphasis on career-driven alternatives to a four-year education.

Work-based learning
At various forums, experts have been recommending a comprehensive pathways network that would include involving the nation’s employers in things like work-based learning, and creating a new social compact with young people.

Apparently taking a cue from countries like China, local experts propose that Tanzanian students need to be exposed career counselling and work-related opportunities early on — no later than secondary school.

In high school, students would have access to educational programmes designed with the help of industry leaders, and they’d be able to participate in paid internships.

“I believe any serious reforms to our educational structure should advocate the outlining of all major occupations at the start of high school,” says John Muranda, an independent education policy analyst and high school teacher at the Dar es Salaam Independent School.

“This will ensure that students will see directly how their course choices prepare them careers that interest them — but still be able to change their minds. Students should also be given more opportunities for work-based learning, such as job shadowing and internships,” he adds.

The current education system, many other policy analysts have warned, is failing to prepare millions of young adults for successful careers by providing a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Students need more paths to career success. Teaching students to cram notes so that they can pass exams is detrimental to their future, and that of the nation. That is why many find it hard to survive the highly competitive labour market,” says Muranda.

Although to some extent it cannot be said to be yet a major problem in Tanzania, this mismatch between job seekers and existing vacant posts is evidently fast becoming an issue with, especially private sector employers.

It has become a culture in many organisations to place fresh graduates under rigorous on-the-job training programmes in a bid to close the gap between what they learnt and job demands.

Other employers are going to the extent of conducting such training on a regular basis to keep abreast of latest labour market and human developments.

Often, one barrier to narrowing the gap has been cited as the lack of latest labour market information in the national education system.

A recent World Bank report on ‘Youth and Employment in Africa’ notes that regardless of a country’s stage of development, labour market information, job search techniques, and career guidance play an important role in helping young graduates in their career choices.

It urges governments to collect, analyse, and disseminate latest trends in the labour market. According the report, such information play a pivotal role and could go a long way in informing young job seekers about employment opportunities.



THE CITIZEN

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