Sierra Leone issues first “State of the Youth” report
With youth unemployment rate among the highest in West Africa, nation places young people at the centre of its development agenda
Freetown: 12 August, 2013 – Sierra Leone today launched its first ever “Status of the Youth” report, painting the most comprehensive situation update on youth employment, education, well-being and participation in the development process.
“We know that a nation can only rise with its youths,” said Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, launching the report on International Youth Day in the presence of the country’s development partners, including Executive Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen.
Mr. Koroma vowed to nurture “an empowered youth population that can lead to a change in the destiny of our country”.
Supported and financed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the report paints a somber picture of youth employment in Sierra Leone, pointing out that 60 percent of young women and men between the ages of 15 to 35 are unemployed. This represents among the highest in West Africa.
The report also states that Sierra Leone has among the fastest growing numbers of young workers living on less than US$ one per day. About 80 percent of the country’s youth population is unable to earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the US$2 per day poverty level.
Less than 50 percent of young workers in Sierra Leone receive payment for their labor, compared with two thirds of adults. In addition, most private companies pay between US$30 to 37 per month as a basic salary, reaching US$58 to 70 at the top supervisory levels.
Women are particularly vulnerable when it comes to education and job opportunities. For instance, 9.5 percent of adult women have reached a secondary or higher level of education, compared with 20.4 per cent of their male counterparts. Only five percent of them participate in wage employment.
Looking at a wide spectrum of development themes and sectors, the report argues for a comprehensive and dramatic scale-up of the country’s effort to pull young people out of poverty. Interventions include improving health services, matching education with the economy’s demand for skills and establishing public-private partnerships to create jobs.
The document also says agriculture has the potential to absorb unskilled youth on a massive scale. With adequate support systems in place, the report says, agro-based value chains can be the main driver of economic growth and poverty reduction.
The Status of the Youth Report was a major recommendation of Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up after the country’s brutal ten-year war ended in 2002. The Commission identified youth marginalization as a major root cause of the war and recommended an annual “Status of The Youth Report” to tackle the issue.
In 2011, the government created a National Youth Commission which now coordinates dozens of employment projects across the country and implements an ambitious youth policy that aims to integrate young people in all national development interventions. These include a drive to develop the private sector and the creation of placement programmes.
In 2013, the government inaugurated a dedicated Ministry of Youth Affairs to boost opportunities for education, training and business creation among youths.
Executive Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, said the UN would continue to support key national institutions like the National Youth Commission and programmes aiming to eradicate youth unemployment.
Between 2009 and 2011, a US$ 2.1 million youth employment programme managed by UNDP in Sierra Leone has helped increase incomes by an average of 197 percent and improve food security among 10,299 young women and men.
Through the assistance, 5,000 young people started their own businesses and communities also reported improvement in their food security and ability to afford further education.
Karim Bah, Communications Analyst, UNDP Sierra Leone. Tel: + 232 78 272 315 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org