Bilal, S., Byiers, B. 2014. Thematic Focus: Fostering more and better jobs. GREAT Insights, Volume 3, Issue 2. February 2014.
Unemployment is a global challenge, affecting both rich and developing countries, currently at a world average of 6%. But it particularly affects young people, with youth unemployment at 13.1%, almost three times the adult rate of 4.6%, according to the latest report from the International Labour Organization.
In Africa, with a rapidly growing population, the challenge is to translate recent sustained economic growth into new job opportunities. The average unemployment rate in Sub-Sahara Africa is 7.6% (up to 11.9% for the youth). Though going by the data, Africa is doing comparatively better than rich economies (at 8.6% in total and over 18% for the youth on average, and well over 50% in countries like Greece and Spain), the situation remains critical. Employment vulnerability is the highest of all developing regions, with high informal employment and a lack of social protection.
The challenge is thus to create more jobs, but also better jobs. Most of these should come from the private sector. This requires a long-term commitment to economic transformation, to reverse the decline in manufacturing, develop a more services oriented economy, provide new opportunities in the agricultural sector and generate value addition. Better education and skill development are key factors. But they are not sufficient if the conditions for more and better jobs are not created in parallel, as illustrated by the popular uprising in North Africa.
The role of the state is therefore critical in providing a conducive macro-economic and business environment, as well as in pursuing comprehensive policies, notably in the education, social, industrial and economic sectors. The creation of jobs, and better quality jobs, cannot be viewed as an independent policy, but must be an overarching objective integrated in a comprehensive package of public policy actions, in partnership with private and social actors. But this is easier said than done.
International actors, from businesses to financial institutions and donors, have a role to play as well. And in doing so, careful attention must be paid not only to the design of their intervention, and anchoring to domestic realities, but to the implementation of their actions, including the monitoring and evaluation dimension.
This issue of GREAT insights brings together a range of views and expertise to highlight the various dimensions of the challenges of creating more and better job. These cover diagnostic considerations as well as analyses of various forms of interventions and policies to address the employment question, as well as their assessment. We hope you find them useful.
San Bilal (Editor), Head of Economic Transformation Programme, ECDPM.
Bruce Byiers (Guest Editor), Policy Officer Trade and Economic Governance, ECDPM.