• Authored By: Hildah Namuleme
04 Jul 2023

According to the United Nations (UN), youth unemployment is defined as the situation where young people (15–24 years old) who are looking for a job cannot find a job.  According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), youth unemployment in Uganda increased from 6.54% in 2021 to 6.58% in 2022.

A UBOS conducted labour force survey 2019/2020 found that about 30% of the youths who are institutionally qualified in Uganda are unable to find jobs, and the situation is even worse for semiskilled and unskilled youths.  Several factors affect youth unemployment in Uganda, including poor access to quality education and training, a skills gap between job seekers and open positions, a dearth of formal jobs relative to the number of young people entering the labour force, and the dominance of the informal sector.

In the 2023/24 FY budget speech, the Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija reported that close to 380,000 employment opportunities have been created under the Presidential Initiative Emyooga a wealth and job creation. This still pales in comparison with what the country needs. The World Bank estimates that 700,000 young people reach working age every year in Uganda. This will rise to an average of one million between 2030-2040.

Other programs have been fronted to address youth unemployment problem. These programs promote entrepreneurship and improve young entrepreneurs’ access to capital and foster an atmosphere that encourages investment and job development. These programs include the Skilling Uganda Initiative, the Youth Livelihood Program (YLP) which offered financial assistance, the Uganda Youth Venture Capital Fund (UYVCF), the Youth Apprenticeship and Skills Development Program, the National Enterprise Development Program (NEDP) as well as the Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP).

Despite spending billions of shillings on these initiatives, there is little to show. Many young people are still unable to find decent and productive employment. Training and skilling in form of human capital development will play a crucial role in addressing youth unemployment in the country.

Human capital refers to people’s knowledge, abilities, and skills as they relate to economic growth. Investments in human capital development may boost innovation and competitiveness, raise labour productivity, and open job prospects. The government has allocated Shs. 9.6 trillion to the Interventions that build human capital. The development of human capital in Uganda includes vocational and technical training programs, designed to provide individuals with practical skills and knowledge for specific occupations or trades.

Uganda is alive to the significancy of vocational skills. The new competency-based lower secondary curriculum incorporates aspects of vocational training with learners able to do something at any stage of leaving school.  The Uganda Business and Technical Examination Board (UBTEB) also indicates that there is a steady growth in interest in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programs, with the cumulative annual record of registered candidates increasing from 9,198 in 2012 to 39,048 in 2022. At least 295,760 students have graduated in TVET programs since 2012.

The government offers various vocational and technical training programs to equip individuals with practical skills for employment and entrepreneurship. They include in areas such as agriculture, construction, engineering, health sciences, business studies, and information technology. Also, programs such as automotive mechanics, plumbing, welding, catering, hairdressing, fashion design, and computer studies have come in handy for many young people’s self-employment.

Uganda hopes the oil and gas sector spillovers can create more employment for young people. Photo/courtesy

Why are vocational and technical training programs essential for youth employment in Uganda?

  • Education and Training: Providing education and training to young people can equip them with the skills that are vital for employment. The government can invest in vocational and technical training programs that prepare the youth for the labour market and provide them with practical skills.
  • Entrepreneurship: Encouraging young people to become entrepreneurs can create job opportunities for themselves and others. The government can support young entrepreneurs through funding programs, business incubation centres, and mentorship programs.
  • Workforce development: The government can invest in workforce development programs that promote job matching, upskilling, and re-skilling. These programs can help young people acquire the skills that employers are looking for and connect them with job opportunities.
  • More Incentives for Job Creation: The government should provide more incentives to businesses that create employment opportunities for young people. For example, tax breaks or subsidies can encourage businesses to hire young people and provide them with training and skills development opportunities.
  • Providing access to decent work: Vocational and technical training programs can provide young people with access to decent work opportunities. This can help to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living of young people and their families.

Vocational and technical training programs can create a more skilled and productive workforce in Uganda. By providing young people with education and training, promoting entrepreneurship, investing in workforce development, and creating incentives for job creation, the government can address youth unemployment in Uganda.