One Monday morning, it was almost impossible to find a spot to stand, and to look into the vacancy advertisements, when Biruk Teshome arrives at one of the roadside notice board which thousands of job seekers visit every day around Aratkillo, Addis Ababa, just a walking distance away from the building of the Ministry of Education (MoE).
“Currently getting a job becomes very difficult,” says Biruk 27, an ambitious civil engineer, who has been unemployed since graduated three years ago, from Jimma University. His routine since he graduated is visiting this place frequently hoping to find a job, but it doesn’t bare any fruit yet, and he couldn’t find one.
“I studied very hardin school and I had no doubt that I could find a decent job, but I ended up jobless and surrounded by hopelessness,” Biruk told The Reporter Magazine.
He lives in Addis Ababa with his mother in a house around Shiromeda. His mother works as a school janitor and earned a monthly salary of 1200 birr only.As life becomes challenging both for himself and his family Biruk, who spent years in the university and graduated engineer decided to work as a daily laborer in a construction site located around Laghar, Addis Ababa,however his efforts did not bare any fruit because the employers rejected his application because he is overqualified for the job.
“I know how my mother suffered a lot to raise me, hoping the future will be bright she invested all her time and money on me” the only child of his mother said.Over the last three years, Biruk applied for several open vacant positions but only a few called him for interview, “I don’t know where to go, I felt into despair”
Despite the sharp increment in expanding higher education institutions, in the past two decades in the country, the issue of graduate unemployment continues to be serious and worrisome social problem in Ethiopia.
According to Urban Employment-Unemployment Survey (UEUS), conducted by Ethiopian Statistics Agency (ESA) the overall unemployment rate has jumped to 19.1 percent in 2018 from 16.9 percent in 2016, whereas youth unemployment is 25.3 percent, which is higher than the total. (When does this survey conducted?)
Although there is no separate survey regarding the number of graduate unemployment in Ethiopia it is evident that there are considerable and high number of jobless graduates both in urban and rural areas.
Tesfaye is also another unemployed youth who was graduated two years ago from Adigrat Universityshares the frustration and said “My passion and energy about finding a job are totally lost.”For him, the recent political instability and turmoil witnessed in different parts of the country hurdled the economy of the nation, which in turn led to soaring youth unemployment.
Adding insult to injury Tesfaye is much worried because this difficulty is not receiving a due attention by the government side “currently, politicians give blind eyes for unemployment, what they are bother for is to strengthening the political constituency by hook or crook” , Tesfaye told The Reporter Magazine.
Tesfay who is currently living with his uncle in Addis Ababa seems hopeless in getting a job with his degree, hence he came up with a plan to start his own business,and to that end he borrowed two thousand birr from his friend a month ago and start selling socks around Hayahulet, Addis Ababa that makes him a street vendor with a university degree.
“I would love if I work as a computer programmer, my childhood dream, if not at least any office work that fits my educational background, yet I ended up on the street” Tesfaye says in a deep melancholic mood.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), every year three million youth enter the labor force. Ethiopia can be one of the fastest developing countries in Africa however the labor market becomes rapidly challenging.
With gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates averaging 10 percent over the past decade, Ethiopia has the fastest growing economy in Africa, however critics argue that recent GDP increases have been mostly driven by these public infrastructure projects, rather than by broad-based economic growth, which probably absorbs high-educated labor force.
Thus, neither the booming construction sector nor the expanding industrial parks helped the nation to create enough job for the youth graduated from higher institutions mushroomed in different parts of the country.
Whilst many denounce nation’s previous job creation trends including the small and micro enterprises (SME) based job creation where organized youth provided loans from the revolving fund system to start their own business, regardless of knowledge and skill they posses, in case of graduates. Last year Ethiopia’s Job Creation Commission unveiled an ambitious plan to create 14 million jobs by 2025.
The country job creation systems are easy remedies, which fail to address underlying problems, Eyob Tesfaye (PhD), a renowned macro economist told The Reporter Megazine.
For Eyob, the overall economic strategy, which mainly focuses on very low skilled labor force and low private-sector employment rates in the country, are the root causes of graduate unemployment.
The economic strategy, which only focuses on increasing GDP overlook creating employment opportunities for the youth, Eyob argues,
Moreover, “whereas the workplace is becoming increasingly competitive, most of the employers in the private sector are looking to hire those who are competent and work independently; graduate competency is also another factor which contributes for the rising graduate jobless. When we trained our labor we have to even think the international labor market not only the domestic one.”Eyob highlighted.
Apart from the gap in the economy to absorb fresh graduates in to the system, the proliferated number of higher intuitions in the country in the past one-decade is also regarded as another factor to exacerbate the problem. In 1986, for instance there were just three public universities, 16 colleges, and six research institutions enrolling fewer than 18,000 students. To the contrary however, today, there are 45 public universities, as well as growing private higher education institutions. In fact, the rapid growth over the past decades deteriorated the quality of Education many argued.
High and growing unemployment among Ethiopian university graduates, meanwhile, raises questions about the quality and relevance of academic curricula, which are considered ill-suited for current labor market demands.
“Frankly speaking, I am not confident about my skills as a civil engineer, we didn’t receive adequate practical opportunities and equipped with the necessary skills during our university years, there was much focus on theoretical lessons only” Biruk criticized the education system.
Currently, most of the graduates are not getting employment opportunities in their direct graduate profile. However, the job opportunity varies from discipline to discipline and from region to region.
Henock Abate, a lecturer at Institute of Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Studies, Bahir Dar University, better understands sufferings in unemployment, after graduating with a BSC degree in Disaster Risk Management and Sustainable Development in 2010 G.C he was enthusiastic to start a job, however, getting a job in his field was not walking in the park, he applied for many institutions but no employer called him for an interview.
Most of the employers at local government offices usually rejected his application telling him that his field of study is not included with the departments listed by civil service as appropriate for the position.
Henock struggled for about seven years to get a job but,he was only able to secure a temporary job for about a year only, then he decided to continue his education and earned his master’s degree from the same university.
Gradually becoming determined, he started searching for a job afresh but this time fate smiled to him as he got hired as a lecturer at Gambela University, where he worked for two years before he is transferred to the university he studied both his BSc and MSc degrees.
“ I don’t forget those tough times I spent in searching for a job, but I never lost hope, I believed I would get a better job in my filed ” Henok told The Reporter Magazine. “I understand how an unemployed graduate faces the worst time coping with joblessness,” he underlined..
Currently, the institute where Henok works for seems understand the problem, a year ago the institute in collaboration with USAID launched an internship program with the aim of employing graduates in various partner organizations throughout the country.
For instance, Addis Ababa Fire and Emergency Prevention and Rescue Agency,National Disaster Risk Management Commission, and Ethiopian Industrial Park Corporation receive our graduates as internship employees and hire as permanent staff, said Adane Tesfaye (PhD) Director for Institute of Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Studies, Bahir Dar University.
For Adane, the limited capacity of organizations to accommodate all the graduates in the country, limited mobility of graduates from region to region, a high number of graduates joined the market annually and limited job creation in the country are some of aggravating factors for graduate unemployment.
On the flip side “Our role in job creation is very minimal”says BezabihGebreyes, Ethiopian Civil Service Commission Commissioner.“Thecivil service is not capable to recruit and absorb all the graduates from higher institutions in the country, the private sector was believed to contribute a large share by creating more jobs in the country however it failed to employ as it could to do so” the Commissioner further explained.
For developing countries like Ethiopia, SME should be designed in a way as an important engine in the job creation process. So as to they could play a key role in job creation, similarly there over all function, feasibility of the businesses, and management of the fund and finance access, need to be taken in to account, Eyob advises.