Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Youth in Tanzania: a growing uneducated labor force

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ImageLet's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

"The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow", so the old adage goes. All countries, including Tanzania, need to invest in and build a strong, healthy, well educated, dynamic and innovative youth.  In Africa, the number of youths (aged 14 to 25 years) have grown significantly  over the past decades, contributing to the bulk of the labor force.  

Tanzania’s youth are no exception as demonstrated below:

- Youth in Tanzania represents roughly 18 per cent of the total population and this share remained stable between 1990 and 2010. These figures are comparable for Uganda and - Senegal but far above those registered in emerging and developed countries where the share of youth declined from 15 per cent in 1990 to 12 per cent in 2010.
- In absolute numbers, the size of Tanzania's youth almost doubled from 4.4 million in 1990 to 8.1 million in 2010. It is expected to swell to 11 million by 2020 and 15 million by 2030.
- Young people accounted for 28 per cent of the labor force in 2010 -- a major presence compared to developed countries. 
- About two out of three youths in Tanzania were active in the labor market in 2010/11, slightly about the rate found in Uganda.
- Notably, the youth unemployment rate is fairly low. It decreased from 8.7 per cent in 2000/01 to 8.2 per cent in 2006 and only 4.7 per cent in 2010/11. Tanzania, like most Sub-Saharan countries, does not face the youth unemployment "time bomb" found in many European countries. Youth unemployment  reached 44.4 percent, 46.4 percent, 29.1 percent, and 22.9 per cent in Greece, Spain, Italy and France respectively in 2011.

Although youth unemployment in Tanzania is low on average, employed youth usually hold precarious jobs in the agricultural sector, without any formal contracts or benefits. They are also more prone to unemployment in urban areas, and paradoxically, when they are more educated.

- About 75 per cent of employed youths are active in the agriculture sector, and only 6.7 per cent hold public sector wage jobs.
- A youth in Dar es Salaam is more than 6 times (13 per cent) more likely to be unemployed than a rural youth (2 per cent).
- More than 20 per cent youths with secondary education in Dar es Salaam are unemployed and a staggering 56 per cent of secondary educated youths in Zanzibar are unemployed

The poor quality of jobs held by Tanzanian youth are to a large extent determined by their low level of education attainments. Of the approximately 900,000 youths (15 - 24-years) that entered the labor market in 2010/11: 14 per cent did not complete primary school, 44 per cent finished their primary but did not transition to secondary, an additional 38 per cent went to secondary but did not reach or finish Form IV, and a mere 4 per cent went beyond O-level. Many of them are unlikely to find a good paying job as the majority did not acquire the necessary skills to create and grow a successful enterprise.

All these facts raise a number of questions:

- Does the high unemployment rate of the urban and educated youth constitute a risk to Tanzania’s social cohesion?
- Is the lack of educated youth a time bomb for a country like Tanzania? 
- Should firms hire more youth? Should apprenticeships be encouraged?
- Should the government invest more in secondary and higher education? 
- Do schools provide the skills needed by the labor force? Should more emphasis be given to technical and vocational training schools?

Note: The statistics above are based on the 2010/11 National Panel Survey, Demographic and Health Surveys for different countries, and Eurostat. All are publicly available.


Jacques Morisset

Lead Economist and Program Leader, World Bank

Jacques Morisset

Lead Economist and Program Leader, World Bank

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