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Why unemployment figures are soaring

Publishing Date : 24 October, 2017


The economy of Botswana is not growing convincingly to absorb all graduates churned out from tertiary institutions in Botswana.

This has been cited as one of the factors contributing to the high unemployment rate in Botswana. “It’s a fact that our economy is not growing at a prospect to absorb all graduates. That is why we talk global competiveness,” an official from HRDC, Dr. Ellah Matshediso highlighted at a “graduate employability skills audit forum” this week held at the University of Botswana in Gaborone.

According to the HRDC Director in Human Resource, Development and Planning Supply, apart from the unfavourable economy, the unemployment statistics keep soaring as some graduates cannot be absorbed into the job market.
Recently, only this year, more than 900 graduated from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT), 300 from Institute of Health Sciences (IHS) and more than 3 000 are expected to graduate this weekend from University of Botswana as well as the newly re-invented Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN).

Other institutions that churn out a significant number of alumnae include Botho University with close to 650 and ABM University with over 700 graduates annually. The recently released Statistics Botswana (SB) unemployment figures from the Botswana Multi Topic Household Survey (BMTHS) of 2015/16, indicates that although the unemployment rate is still high, it has however declined from the previous 19.9 percent in 2011 to 17.6 percent in 2016.

Some observers have however said the figures are questionable as a significant number of citizens have of recent lost their jobs especially in the mining industry. Close to 4000 from BCL and around 2000 people at Tati Copper Nickel mine lost their jobs of late. In 2008 during the world economic meltdown the unemployment rate also hit a record high of 26.2%. At the official release of the figures recently, Statistician General Anna Majelantle said that a total of 1.2 million people aged 18 years and above which comprises of an estimated 838,000 were economically active while the remaining 147,101 of those are unemployed.

Official data also indicates that the unemployment rate for the youth, aged between 15 and 35 years, is estimated at 25.2%. The majority of the unemployed population was highest for persons with Junior Certificate (JC), at 39.4%, followed by those with Senior Secondary School and Primary education at 22.8% and 14.8% respectively. The unemployed with university or college education were estimated at 11.4%. It is understood that university graduates want to enter the job market while they have no practical experience.  

She further said learners do internships that are not relevant to their area of speciality. She also said the government internship cannot accommodate all the learners. A great contributing factor to the unemployment figures according to the HRDC official is the mismatch of skills.  “There is a skills mismatch; the internship duration is also limited for learning purposes and experience (skills and competency acquisition); failure of institutions to adjust to latest technology; lack of soft skills (presentation during interviews); lack of adequate career guidance and that; programs and training are more theory oriented or inadequate practical skills.”

Meanwhile the University of Botswana Dean of Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Yohana Mashalla who also attended the event, conceded that as UB they are not fully aligned for the market as they would want to be. “We also create a pool of graduates with a mindset that the only employer is government. But we need to change their mindset. They also need the private sector. We should create graduates who are employable at all areas. There is also need for self employment,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has previously pointed out that the lack of skills in the labour force and skill mismatches have been the most serious challenge, compounded by an overly restrictive policy on permits for foreign workers and high wages in the public sector in Botswana. The country is also still heavily dependent on diamonds as the driver of the economy although the diamond industry is not a great employment creator.

Dr. Matshediso however cautioned that Botswana is undergoing a paradigm shift, in which she is moving from a ‘natural resources based economy to skills or knowledge based economy’ where the skills will become a commodity and take centre stage. Skills, she added should take the lead in employment.



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