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It is an honor to be here today to discuss with you one of the most serious challenges for Senegal: youth unemployment. All of us here from the Labsy Ababacar Sy English Club are committed to tackling it, as students and change-makers ourselves. Youth unemployment is an issue very important to us, both personally and politically. It is clear that Senegal’s growth and prosperity is based upon our greatest asset: our youth. This is why our first priority should be to make sure that Senegal is a place where our young people can grow and reach their potential; a place of positive prospects for all.
Youth unemployment has more and more become a threat to stability and peace in Sub-Saharan Africa, as the recent positive economic growth observed in many African countries did not provoke job growth opportunities for younger generations. The unemployment crisis has taken a major toll on our economies and societies. Young people have had to bear an unfair burden in the adjustment process, faced with high rates of unemployment, and struggling with unpredictable and low-income work.
Our English Club Members are committed to advocating for government intervention to provide young people with a good quality offering of employment, higher education, or an apprenticeship after leaving formal education. The question that we want to address today is: How do we do this?We first need to take note of where we stand. Other countries are adapting education and training systems to increase the number of quality apprenticeships. Closer partnerships with the business community are being built in this process.
In France, the law on lifelong learning increases support for apprenticeships for those with fewer qualifications. These efforts are showing tangible results and creating opportunities for young people.
Mr. President, youth unemployment remains very high, over 12%. Today, in Senegal, young women are more negatively affected by unemployment than young men. Nationally, 71 out of 100 young unemployed are women. The job market for youth is dominated by unskilled labor and the majority of young people are engaged in agricultural activities. Of the unemployed youth, 46% are uneducated and 28% have only received primary schooling.
Many programs focused on promoting youth employment have been conducted in recent years to improve employability, access to finance and access to information on the labor market. Unfortunately, these initiatives have not always produced the desired effect. There are three important lessons we can draw.
First lesson: We must do more to reach out to the young people furthest away from the labor market, so that they are not forgotten. We must guarantee that the government helps them to get a hold in the job market.
Second lesson: Work needs to continue to ensure the good quality of all the government offers; these offers must be personalized and adapted to each individual — including their skills and qualifications. For apprenticeships in particular, we need programs providing useful guidance on quality work. The core objective is to help young people to get into and to stay in the jobs market.
Third lesson: Effective partnerships are in most cases the strongest factors of success. Broader, more inclusive change is required in the way in which authorities work and communicate with employers and others around outreach, training, and employment opportunities for young people.
Mr. President, the helping get the youth into the workfield is by no means a cure-all. It must be complemented by the right policies focusing on job creation and the investment in human assets. Our English Club has proposals of new initiatives to help address these issue: Youth unemployment cannot be solved unless there are new quality jobs created. We need a plan that aims at boosting growth and job creation. The social aspect will also be reinforced by increasing support for social enterprises and with money put into Senegal’s workforce.
Focusing on increasing skills, employability and entrepreneurship and is central to our fight against youth unemployment. Advancing nationally with better social investment, is key in this respect to help get more young people into work; to help them reach their full potential. Our economies and societies are transforming in front of our eyes. Young people are particularly in the spotlight here, with both social and intergenerational fairness.
Mr. President, every day that a young person cannot find a job is a day too many. We know that we still have a long way to go before our victory is truly secure, but we believe we are on the right path. People often remark that winning this battle is important for Senegal’s future. Our club would like to add it is important also for the present. We owe people in Senegal, today and tomorrow, to work with determination and to do everything to combat this issue. I am confident that with continued political commitment, sufficient resources and strong resolve, we will have the results we are all striving for.
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