Young African Leaders Initiative president Andrew Ntewewe says the 16.3 per cent youth unemployment level recently announced by the Central Statistical Office is a bogus figure which government should not boast about.

Last week, Central Statistical Office Director of Census and Statistics John Kalumbi said youth unemployment in the first quarter of 2017 stood at 16.3 per cent.

“Youth (15-35 years) unemployment rate is the number of unemployed youths expressed as a percentage of the youth labour force. Youth unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2017 was estimated at 16.3 per cent. In urban areas, youth unemployment rate stood at 17.0 per cent while rural areas recorded a rate of 15.5 per cent,” said Kalumbi.

But in an interview with News Diggers! yesterday, Ntewewe said the numbers being captured by CSO sounded unreal because they included those in the informal sector as being employed.

“In reality what the central statistic does when its carrying out its survey is that when they look at employment, they do not look at it in terms of formal employment or informal employment. They don’t look at whether this person is contributing taxes to the government or anything, the only thing they look at is whether an individual is carrying out an activity that is able to support his life. And so what is happening in the back is that even those friends of ours on the streets who are selling airtime, according to central statistics they are having employment, they are captured in that data. Even those our young people who are in the village who are tilling the land and only get a benefit at the end of the year by selling a few bags of maize, they are captured as being part of the employment,” Ntewewe said.

Ntewewe observed that the figures given by the CSO were different from what was happening on the ground because a lot of people were still living below the 54.4 percent poverty line.

“What is pertaining on the ground is different because much as the numbers look good, what is happening is that so many people who are in the formal employment are living below the poverty data line. And so you cannot say that these people are in employment when they are unable to have a decent life. We are not talking about luxurious life, we are talking about decent livelihood. And for instance if you look at the 7th National Development Plan, you are going to notice one of the damage statistic which is there and that is the fact that we have got about 55.4 percent of our people living in poverty. Now if you are going to have 55.4 percent and then you are saying there is only 16.3 percent who are in employment, that’s paradoxical,” he said.

“So at the end of the day even if the figures look good, in real terms they are not good, they are simply bogus, its just numbers which is not backed in real terms. So we do not think that government should be excited but it should be an indictment on the part of government that unfortunately we are not ensuring that the informal sector is moving from the level where it is to another level and that is what we must be able to do.”

Ntewewe asked government to pay more attention to the informal sector.

“That is why according to the central statistical office, you will discover that the number of the people that in employment are very few. But in real terms, what we have been talking about as YALI is the fact that we must be able to go beyond discussing employment levels, we must be discussing what is gainful employment, is this employment able to sustain one’s livelihood? Is this employment able to give someone decent shelter, accommodation, sanitation and health facilities, education facilities? That is what we must be able to look at,” Ntewewe said.

“I think what we can say to government is that given the fact that our employment statistics dwell more on the informal sector, the government must pay more than the usual attention to ensure that even the informal sector is able to move from the level where it is to another level. Now the only way the informal sector can move is when the people that are in the formal sector are empowered. They are given capacity for instance we have talked about our friends who are in farming, whichever type of farming whether its livestock farming, whether its fish farming, acqua culture, what is supposed to happen is that they must have capacity.”

He said there was need to ensure that skills development and capacity was given to the people.

“So unfortunately in the absence of capacity, we are simply going to be saying no these people are in employment and the numbers are this much. But at the end of the day those numbers sound very bogus, the numbers sound unreal but in actual sense those are the numbers being captured. So government can do a little bit more in terms of ensuring that skills development and capacity is given to our people so that even as we talk about employment, we move away from the concept of talking about employment but about gainful employment and capture real data that takes into account human development and other facts,” said Ntewewe.