In Summary

  • The ratios were 102.5 and 110.2 in 1991 and 2002 respectively to every 100 hundred economically active Ugandans.
  • Ubos says populations with high birth rates coupled with low death rates have a high dependence ratio as Nelson Wesonga explores.

Had Robert Olal*, 26, a journalist, were to be employed and earning Shs1 million monthly (gross), government would be deducting Shs222,500 Pay as You Earn (PAYE) from his salary. And, his employer would be topping up Olal’s Shs50, 000 monthly contributions to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) with Shs100,000.
If Mary Nagimesi*, 23, a social scientist had been employed, she would not be asking her elder sister, who has a job, for money to type job application letters, make copies of her résumé and fare from home to town to either electronically mail, post or hand deliver the applications.
Instead of spending hours watching over and over again the American television fantasy drama series, “Game of Thrones”, she would be teaching History to secondary school students.
Given the rainy season, Eddie Sserugo*, 29, a plumber, would have been busy unblocking clogged sewers.
If Anna Kwikirize*, 25, a typist, had gotten a job five years ago - when she completed a course in secretarial studies – she would by now be renting a tenement.

She would not have been residing in her parents’ home and would not have been dependent on them for food and clothing. All of the five are looking for paid work, but are yet to find any openings.
Robert Banalya, a parent, thinking his son was not trying hard to get a job, approached an employer on the son’s behalf. “I approached an officer at a factory who told me they will think about it,” Mr Banalya told the Daily Monitor just last year.
Banalya’s son, a mason, never got the job. And with no job, his son, like many other Ugandans, now has to rely on his parents for shelter and food.
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos 2016), for every 100 economically active Ugandans, there are 103 dependents.
The ratios were 102.5 and 110.2 in 1991 and 2002 respectively to every 100 hundred economically active Ugandans.
Ubos says populations with high birth rates coupled with low death rates have a high dependence ratio.
One cannot rule out the likelihood of some unemployed youth turning to crime and using proceeds to putting it on rival soccer teams in the Premier League.

Also, with many unemployed people thinking of first getting jobs ahead of beginning families, equally many could be postponing marriage because without jobs they believe they cannot support themselves.
Different reasons have been advanced to explain why many people are unemployed. And according to the Lost Opportunity? Gaps in Youth Policy and Programming in Uganda 2012 report by Action Aid International Uganda et al, six in every 10 Ugandans are unemployed.
The Executive Director of the Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE), Ms Rosemary Ssenabulya, says technology is partly to blame. Because some operations are automated, Ms Ssenabulya says some workers are replaced. “Of course, technology creates some jobs in the process,” Ms Ssenabulya adds.

Gemma Ahaibwe and Swaibu Mbowa of the Economic Policy Research Centre say one of the causes of unemployment is the high rate of the growth of the labour force.
According to Uganda’s Employment Challenge: An Evaluation of Government’s Strategy report (2014); 700,000 individuals enter the labour market each year.
The report, which was authored by the Finance, Planning and Economic Development ministry, says there will be twice as many individuals (1.5 million) by 2040.
Through the article ‘Youth Unemployment Challenge in Uganda and the Role of Employment Policies in Jobs Creation’, they say unemployment is also due to inappropriate skills.

Dr Fred Muhumuza, an economist, deconstructs the skills argument. “If companies are closing, they are laying off skilled people, meaning the skills argument collapses,” he says.
“Look at what has happened in Nile Breweries where managers had to go off because of global dynamics. It has been taken over. You cannot tell me those senior managers are not skilled.”
He acknowledges though that unemployment is a function of the population growth rate, now annually at 3.2 per cent.
He says main cause is that Uganda is not creating enough economic opportunities. It is not addressing the property rights of people who would have embarked on activities that require labour.
Instead of building confidence, news reports about land evictions and land grabbing discourage many from starting activities that will create employment opportunities.
No one, he adds, wakes up saying his or her objective is job creation. Usually, one is looking for other things.

Jobs are a by-the-way
“It is not an objective of the private sector to create jobs,” Dr Muhumuza says. “It is an objective of the private sector to make profit out of opportunities.”
As people try to realise the opportunities, they do things that will employ labour.

Happy.Graduands celebrate after graduation at Makerere this year. Photo by Alex Esagala.

It is depressing being unemployed
Dr Paul Nyende, a senior lecturer at the Makerere University Department of Psychology, says people believe they will be find jobs once they complete studies.
They invest time and money. “They put in effort, expecting handsome dividends,” Dr Nyende says. “If the anticipated dividends do not come, they are upset. They consider themselves rejected.”
It is even harder on the unemployed if they see their former classmates building houses – since they have jobs and can afford it. “The unemployed could withdraw (literally) from people,” Dr Nyende adds.

In extreme cases, he adds, some unemployed people could attempt suicide.
It is not any pleasant for the parents of the unemployed. Many believed that once their children come of age, and complete studies, they would not only be independent but also assist them materially/financially.
With the children unemployed, the parents who had saved some money might deplete the savings faster – to support their children. Unemployment worries Uganda’s head of state, President Museveni.
During conference on mining in 2014 in Kampala, he said if no jobs are created, soon there could be an Arab Spring” – which is traced to Tunisia 2010.

The Arab Spring, which is now neologism for peaceful revolutions, was sparked off by an unemployed Tunisian who killed himself to protest against the economic conditions in Tunisia.
The revolution swept the Tunisian President Ben Ali from power. It soon spread to Egypt and Libya where Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi also had to leave.
To ensure the Arab Spring does not blow through Uganda, Mr Museveni’s government has started many programmes it believes will check unemployment.
One of the things the government embarked on to address unemployment was to start the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP). Through YLP, which started in 2014 and will run until next year, the government gives soft loans to groups of between 10 and 15 members.

The loans, ranging from Shs1 million to Shs25 million, should be repaid within three years.
The unemployed who get the money should use it to start small projects, thereby creating jobs for themselves.
It (the government) set aside Shs265 billion for the groups projects. Unfortunately, instead of reports of projects that have taken off, what comes out time and again is that many of those who got the loans used the money to entertain themselves.
Other than the YLP, to address unemployment, the government says it will create job opportunities through industrialisation. To that end, it will put in place the catalysts – roads and energy infrastructure.

Once there is abundant and cheap electricity, foreign investors should come to Uganda. The roads will ease the movement of goods from factories to the market.
However, this line of reasoning does not explain why, if merely having good roads and sufficient electricity, foreign investors do not head to, say, the Republic of South Africa or Egypt, that have good roads and generate reasonable a lot of power.
Since high population growth rate, which does not match or outmatch employment opportunities, is partly to blame for unemployment, it should follow that checking the population growth rate would help to check unemployment.

Dr Muhumuza says to address unemployment the government should create a conducive environment. That would entail nurturing a legal framework that guarantees people their property rights.
The government should regulate the market. On skills, government officials time after time say training institutions should psych up students to be “job creators”.
That way, once the students graduate but fail to get jobs, they will create employment opportunities, which will engage them and also employ many others. But this takes us back to Dr Muhumuza’s point that there must be economic opportunities.
“A lot of rhetoric we are having is not based on economic reasoning and logic; it is just politicking,” Dr Muhumuza says. “Go and create jobs where, to do what? A job is part of a chain...”

Since the population growth rate is high, Uganda should check its population growth rate.
But Dr Muhumuza says this is possible in the long term since even if every Ugandan from now on says he or she will have one child, you would still have a generation to undo the current, large population.
In other words, population control cannot be a quick, short term or medium term solution. The way round it, he says is to create jobs for those who are around.
In the meantime, Olal has not turned to applying for graduate scholarships, hoping he will be selected for one of the many.
Kwikirize is now making necklaces using paper. She sells the necklaces though business is slow.