Youth and unemployment
Nearly 50% of the population of Ethiopia is aged under 15 years (CSA, 2012). As these young people grow up they will help to provide the necessary workforce for continued development. However, in the current market the majority of urban youth remains unemployed. If the population continues to grow at a faster rate than employment opportunities, then unemployment will increase over time, unless innovative solutions are introduced to reduce or reverse this trend.
The WASH service sector, as discussed earlier, needs to grow substantially to meet expected standards of service. If appropriately developed, the sector can offer much sought after employment opportunities within the urban environment. Some initiatives are already taking shape in urban areas to engage unemployed youth in income-generating activities such as new enterprises in solid waste collection, transport and/or disposal services.
These initiatives, which are very small compared with the potential market and high unemployment rate, need to be developed into wide-scale application to have a meaningful impact on unemployment. Such initiatives are commonly referred to as public–private partnerships because privately owned enterprises are working together with the public sector to improve services. In Ethiopia, there is an increasing number of private groups employed by municipalities (the public service provider) to collect waste from households and transport it to disposal sites.
Additional areas of service that can contribute to employment generation include:
- voluntary sanitation and hygiene promotion campaigns to promote and create demand for improved WASH products
- supply and sales of hygiene/sanitation products (e.g. soaps, menstrual pads, household water treatment equipment or chemicals, latrine slabs, smoke-free stoves)
- supply of services (sludge emptying, waste collection and/or disposal, waste recycling).
Addressing unemployment is a joint responsibility for the community, government, non-governmental and civil society organisations (NGOs and CSOs), private organisations and schools. For example, the municipality can work with micro- and small enterprises to create jobs in the WASH sector and their finance office can facilitate long-term loans with microfinance institutions for business start-up needs. To bring about improvement, joint commitment is needed by all.