The RDC is right. Unemployment is possibly the major driving force behind the mammoth numbers. According to the latest `State of Uganda Population Report 2018’, released by the National Population Council in November 2018, Uganda has about 19 million people of working age out of a total population of 41 million people.
Up to 15 million of those are working but only 9 million can be said to be employed, meaning they are paid for their work. Of these, 3 million are in towns and 6 million are in rural areas. Up to 56% are male and 40% are female. Up to 1.2 million are idle; meaning they are not in school, working, or in training.
As a result, Uganda has an unemployment rate of 9.2%. It is highest in urban areas at 14% compared to 6% in rural areas. The highest unemployment rate, 16.8% is among young people aged between 15-24 years old and youth, 18-30 year olds at 13.3%. Overall, the youth (aged 18 – 30) comprise about 21% of the population (about 8.2 million people), with majority (56%) being female. These are the people fighting to be LDUs.
They are willing to work for Shs200,000 a month because the median wage in Uganda is Shs168,000 per month. Recently there has also been a rise in poverty level from 19.7% to 21.7%. The statistics also show that only 30% of people listed as employed are in paid employment, meaning they are not labourers on farms. The majority, 54% are self-employed, meaning they are engaged in petty trade, selling rolex, (chapatti and fried egg) riding boda boda, and cutting hair in salons.
This is reflected in the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) of 46% and 60% for female and male respectively. The employment to population ratio (EPR) is 47.5%.
Out of the male and female population, those who are employed constitute 56% and 40% respectively. More than half of the working female population is not considered as employed – i.e. do not work for pay.
Window of opportunity
But if the current unemployed figures are scary, most experts worry about what it will be like 20 years from today, in 2040, when the current National Development Plan (NDP II), expires.
According to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) brief of March 2017 titled ‘Uganda population Dynamics’, Uganda will have 75 million people by 2040. That is double what the population is today. The desired per capita income for 2040 is US$9,500 (Approx. Shs35 million). It currently is US$825 (Approx. Shs3 million).
To achieve the projected GDP per capita of 2040, Uganda’s economy must grow at a rate of 12% per year. It is currently growing at 5% at best. The brief says the Ugandan economy needs to absorb, on yearly basis about 392,000 new entrants into the labour market. People seeking jobs are increasing at a faster rate than the population growth rate.
So part of the slow growth results from a large part of the population being young and dependent on a small population that works. A graphic representation of Uganda’s population looks like the tip of a sharpened pencil. Very thin at the top (2% very few old people) and very fat at the bottom (up to 50% of the population is 14 years and below).
The bottom cannot be expected to contribute to the economy. But babies of one year today will be 20 years old in 2040 and teenagers who are 14 years old today will be 34 years old in 2040. So will the level of economic dependency have changed so that they can have jobs and enjoy a better standard of living?
According to the July 2018 National Population Council report titled ` Harnessing Uganda’s Demographic Dividend: Evidence From National Transfer Accounts’, “borrowing a leaf from the experience of the South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, it may be possible to take advantage of this large youthful population and turn it into advantage.”
While commemorating the World Population Day, the Director General of National Population Council (NPC), Jotham Musinguzi in his speech said, “Uganda’s young population presents a window of opportunity for accelerating economic growth if it is well planned for.”