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Unemployment and underemployment are likely to increase in Uganda. This is largely due to an increase in new young entrants into the labour force, which is not matched by an equal increase in the number of jobs.

Furthermore, a significant proportion of vacant jobs in Uganda are not filled because employers blame Uganda’s education system for not meeting industry needs and for imparting theoretical as opposed to relevant practical skills.
Despite government poverty reduction efforts, in 2013, the number of Ugandans living under poverty (7.5 million) is still high with 52 per cent females considered as working poor and also illiterate. It has often been argued that poor training, low productivity jobs and low wages trap the working poor and exclude young persons from participating in economic growth.

With a considerable number of young graduates, diploma and certificate holders entering the labour market and seeing employment, a qualification alone should not be the only prerequisite for an employee to consider an applicant. At the moment, getting a qualification in any field is, just that, a means to an end in Uganda.

First, government in collaboration with industries need to identify and name specialised institutions in the country by region that can train the right human capital for a certain industry based on an agreement (MoU) with the industry in question-direct absorption.

Note that this will also necessitate to have agreed upon modules (both theory and practice) that the industry requires from the people it is expected to absorb. Institutions doing the same training need to get a sector that will absorb the human capital that has qualified.

Second, the need to look beyond the “paper” in some instances when filling vacancies. The informal sector is doing it so the formal sector should do it for certain categories of jobs. If ability to undertake a task is practically observed during interviews irrespective of qualifications, then an individual should be given an opportunity to do so.

Given the increasing young qualified people being churned out annually, industries should deliberately create room to work with people who have exhibited an affinity for practicality to performing tasks during recruitment and interviews. Demonstrated untapped talent in the field in question should be harnessed.

This calls for a drastic targeted employment recruitment processes to meet industry labour needs. Therefore, a mapping at national level of demand and supply of labour requirements is essential.

The National Manpower Survey of 1987-88 was the last comprehensive data on labour availability by occupation and provided information only for establishments of more than five employees.

Nevertheless, several organisations have information on labour market data albeit not comprehensive but rather meeting institutional needs such as Federation of Uganda Employers, National Organisation of Trade Unions, and National Social Security Fund-but mainly for those in formal employment.

To curb this national statistical deficit, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has set up a Labour Information Management System unit in the directorate of labour to provide detailed statistics on different aspects of employment and labour.

This will help fasten the job searching and matching dilemma in both the public and private sector requirements. Furthermore, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics is conducting the second national manpower survey. These pieces of information will facilitate the restructuring of education, vocational guidance and training to suite labour market’s needs.

BTVET is trying but is still not good enough. So the point should not be which papers you have but what you can do. Our education system is based on the British system which focuses on class, books, getting certificates which means that most of our graduates are more concerned with graduating than with what they can deliver at the end of the day.
Madina Guloba, PhD Research Fellow, EPRC
Micro Department. mguloba@eprcug.org

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