Construction workers in Ethiopia. Between 2000 and 2010, Africa’s labour force expanded by 91 million. (Photo/Simon Davis/DFID)

22 Million Young People Joined Africa’s Labour Force In 2015, Here’s What We Need To Watch

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YOU probably know that Africa is the only continent whose labour force is growing robustly, but here are the numbers: in 2015 alone, 22 million young people joined the labour force, says data from the African Development Bank.

Two-thirds of the countries in Africa today have a population smaller than that.

By 2030, there will be a combined 400 million more people in the workforce from today’s numbers. The dependency ratio – the number of young children and retired people that each person of working age has to support – is set to decline from being the highest in the world by a considerable margin to being on par with North America and Europe today.

Nigeria accounts for 3.4 million, or nearly 16% of the total yearly cohort of new labour entrants. In line with their ranking in Africa’s total population, Ethiopia, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa round out the top five.

Creating sufficient stable employment to absorb this growing potential labour force will be the greatest challenge going forward for African governments.

Officially, the continent’s unemployment rate is relatively low at an average of 9%. However, this masks the fact that barring a few exceptions, most countries do not have any social welfare programmes to speak of, which means that few people can afford not to work.

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Instead, they engage in subsistence agriculture, informal self-employment or work for the family in order to survive, says a report by Mckinsey Global Institute.

Between 2000 and 2010, Africa’s labour force expanded by 91 million, but just over a third of the new entrants were employed in stable, wage-paying jobs.

More than half (52 million) turned to subsistence activities to earn income, just 2 million could “afford” to actually be unemployed.

The report suggests that Africa can make the most of its shifting demographics by intensifying investment in three sectors: agriculture, manufacturing, and retail and hospitality.

These have the potential to create up to 72 million stable, wage-paying jobs – an additional 18 million over the levels in 2012.

Within these sectors, growth in jobs could be more than 50% faster than in the base-case scenario if governments remove obstacles to private sector growth.

These policy fixes would move Africa closer to the job-creation trajectory of South Korea and other Asian tigers, McKinsey says.

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