On the surface, labor market statistics in Africa show that overall unemployment levels for the region are hovering just above the global average while Africa’s youth unemployment levels look better than the rest of the world. However, these numbers don’t reflect the fact that young Africans are more likely to work in the informal sector and not in places that pay good wages, develop skills or provide a measure of job security. Thus, Africa’s youth unemployment challenges encompass more than just a lack of jobs for African youth, but also a shortage of good quality jobs.
As the midpoint of the African Union’s “Youth Decade Plan of Action” approaches, John Page examines some the key labor market challenges for the region and argues that a new Action Plan—one that combines efforts to improve the employment prospects for young people with a strategy for job creation—is needed. Page calls for reforms in both short- and medium-term employment policies, growth in agriculture and other industries, as well as increased technical and vocational training in order to address Africa’s increasing youth unemployment in 2013.