Underemployment a challenge as more youth join labour market

When Emmerence Dusabimana graduated from university, she hoped to find a job in the sector corresponding to the course she had done.

However, she would end up doing casual jobs that are different from what she studied or which don’t allow her to use fully her knowledge.

The young woman studied agriculture economics and business at the then National University of Rwanda. After four years, however, she now says she is yet to get a full-time job where she can apply the knowledge she acquired at the institution of higher learning.

Ms Dusabimana has worked as a community ICT facilitator and held other casual jobs, including as an entrepreneurship trainer. Her case is not unique: There are many other similar situations where graduates end up doing jobs for which they are over-qualified or are employed part-time.

“There are two main reasons for underemployment: Corruption in the labour market, whereby some qualified candidates are not hired, and limited job opportunities,” Ms Dusabimana told Rwanda Today.

This week, the University of Rwanda held its second graduation ceremony — which means new jobseekers will join the labour market.

READ: Graduate numbers increase as vacancies for right jobs shrink

Rising cost of living

As the cost of living continues to rise, as is reflected in Consumer Price Index, and the lack of a fair minimum wage that corresponds to the cost of living, underemployment makes life harder for young graduates and other employees who do casual work with a poor pay.

According to the Labour Day Speech 2015 that the Workers Union (CESTRAR) sent to media organisations, negations on setting the minimum wage are going on well but there should be strategies to negotiate, which involves many workers’ groups and to find a common ground between unions and employers.

“Normally, I should also work as a consultant in agribusiness sector but it is still under-developed, Ms Dusabimana said. “Policymakers should do more to support the sector development.”

Ms Dusabimana also believes that another reason she has not yet found a job that matches her education background is because the course she has done is “relatively new.”

Insufficient situation

Underemployment is defined as an employment situation that is insufficient in some important way for the worker relative to a standard, including holding a part-time job despite desiring full-time work, and over-qualification, where the employee has education, experience or skills beyond the requirements of the job.

An employee who requested to be interviewed on condition of anonymity said he studied applied biology at the university but became underemployed as a casual translator and indoor housing spray labourer, a programme to fight malaria.

He said graduates in the field would normally work in research institutes as well as production industries such as beverage maker Bralirwa and the dairy firm Inyange, or at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

When he graduated, there were few job opportunities for him and too many jobseekers, both old and fresh graduates, jostling for the few positions available, which increased competition.

“For instance, if there is one job openings at some institution or company and 400 jobseekers apply for them, that reduces the chances of getting hired,” he said.

Casual employment

According to a thematic report on the labour force that was released last year, unemployment in Rwanda is an urban phenomenon that affects young people (16-35 years) more than adults.

The unemployment rate among active youth (16–35) was four per cent and 8.7 per cent, respectively, at the national level and in urban areas while it was 2.6 per cent and 5.6 per cent among adults (36–65).

“There are some job openings in education but they are usually different from what we studied,” said the jobseeker. “I had to apply for other jobs for which I meet some of the requirements.

“The fact that there are limited opportunities in the job market does not mean life stops until an offer in the career of your choice is made. You look for other jobs if you fit in any without considering your profession and qualification, you just work so as to make ends meet.”

The source suggested that the government should focus on entrepreneurship training that is tailored for science graduates because the group is the most vulnerable as far as underemployment is concerned.

According to the third Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV 3) of 20102011 released by the National Institute of Statistics, the national economy had a capacity of creating 104,000 off-farm jobs on an annual basis.

EDPRS2 calls for “200,000 off-farm jobs to be created each year” to meet employment needs of the labour market. This means unemployment could still be a big challenge for graduates in future, thus increasing underemployment for survival.

Guidance and training

“Stakeholders (both in the private sector and government) should put more effort in helping students to become self-employed,” the source suggested.

“For instance, someone who studied pure mathematics, it would not be easy to know which type of business he should start.”

“You (scientists) should do this kind of businesses without waiting for new companies in their field of studies to create new ones.” That is the message needed, according to the source. Other young people prefer to further their studies to the highest level before looking for a job.