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Jobs for youth could boost economic growthľWorld Bank

STAFF WRITER
Botswana could improve incomes per capita, reduce poverty and increase growth through generating jobs for its increasing number of young workers, according to a recently released World Bank Group report. But this chance may be hindered by the countryĺ already high unemployment rate, if not tackled.

Botswana’s youth unemployment rate is estimated at 33% with general unemployment rate projected at 19%. The report: Forever young? Social policies for a changing population in Southern Africa, illustrates how today’s social policies can be shaped to reap benefits presented by the region’s changing population leading to wealthier and more productive future generations, fostering growth and equity. It explores conditions necessary for the region to take full advantage of its growing working-age population.

“Botswana and its Southern Africa peers have a chance to break intergenerational poverty by promoting social services that invest in the potential of its people from a very young age and by putting its highest number of people to work through harnessing its most valuable resource -- having an increasing number of youth present in the next three decades,” said Guangzhe Chen, World Bank Group Country Director for Southern Africa. “But this is particularly challenging in an environment that is already plagued by very high joblessness”.

 According to the report, Botswana will need to create at least 340,000 jobs in the next 30 years if the country is to just hold the current low employment rates constant.

The study which focuses on Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland shows that more of the population in these five countries will be of working-age by 2050. It argues that with fewer dependents per worker, fiscal resources will be freed for the promotion of human development and the employment of younger generations and that good social policies can help generate a virtuous cycles of equity and productivity.

Between now and 2050, the working-age population in Botswana will increase by 29%, Lesotho by 36%, 53% in Namibia, and 43% in Swaziland.

In South Africa the figure will be lower, 28%, yet representing an increase of almost 10 million people. By comparison, the report notes that the age structure in the

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rest of sub-Saharan Africa will hardly have changed since 1950.

To reap the advantage of this transition, the report suggests that Botswana will need to generate jobs for its increasing working-age population, and ensure that potential workers are equipped with the necessary skills and instruments to match the demand for labor.

“If this does not happen, the transition will add further pressure to already fragile labor markets: unemployment is already high in the region, reaching a staggering 47% among youth,” read the report.

In addition, the region will at the same time need to bolster the employability of the millions of working-age population that have already completed their education, but lack the skills to work in a sophisticated and growing global economy, with continuous and remedial education, labour insertion programmes and social assistance.

The report finds that overall, Botswana’s generous social assistance systems which have higher fiscal allocations compared to most emerging economies, are mainly geared towards a “protection” role, with the bias towards the elderly.

It argues that, they will need to shift to serve a dual objective of protecting the poor and vulnerable from shocks and promoting the human development of the population.

In Botswana, policies that stimulate higher productivity through better-quality education and technology could increase per capita income 14% more than in the business-as-usual scenario. Simulations also suggest that inclusive growth policies complement each other and that simultaneous implementation could lead to greater impacts than the contribution of each policy alone.

It assets that if all policies went into effect at once, South Africa’s GDP per capita would almost quintuple rather than triple by 2050. It would more than triple in Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, and almost triple in Namibia.



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