Unemployment is an unbalance between the supply and the demand of working hours.Unemployment, condition of one who is able to work but unable to find work. Formerly assumed to be voluntary, idleness was punishable by law; however it is now recognized that unemployment arises from factors beyond the control of the individual worker. Unemployment may be due to seasonal layoffs (e.g., in agricultural jobs), technological changes in industry (particularly by increased automation), racial discrimination, lack of adequate skills by the worker, or fluctuations in the economy. The term underemployment is often used to describe the condition of those who work part-time because full-time jobs are unavailable or who are employed at less-skilled work than they are qualified to do.
Unemployment is one of the most serious problems facing the African continent. In accordance with IMF/World Bank conditions, most of the African countries applying structural adjustment measures have retrenched large number of public-sector workers. In February 1995, for example, the Zimbabwean Cabinet ordered all government ministries to reduce their staff numbers by 40 per cent, which translated into the abolition of about 10,000 posts by the middle of the year. The bad situation in Africa has been exacerbated by demographic pressure, resulting in a high number of new entrants to the labour market annually.
The target group which deserves special mention consists of young people and women, who constitute the bulk of the unemployment in Africa. There is also an increase in unemployment among university graduates in many African countries. There are several reasons for this, including changes in societal goals and aspirations. Increased education is encouraged by changes in government policy, such as the introduction of such laudable programmes as free, universal primary schooling, which results in an increase in secondary school enrolments. This in turn leads to a proliferation of universities. The aim is to accommodate as many qualified students as possible; but there is often inadequate planning for the future employment of graduates.
CAUSES OF UNEMPLOYMENT.
The causes of unemployment in Africa include the worldwide recession, which has resulted in less demand for raw materials, cash crops and, to some extent, manufactured goods. This has led to decreased production and the eventual and unavoidable lay-offs. Furthermore, as a result of modern technology, labour-intensive work, such as agricultural employment, has been drastically reduced as fewer people are needed to perform certain jobs.
Mention should also be made of the role played by the increasing population. The result has been that more job seekers have been thrown onto the labour market. Urban migration is yet another cause of unemployment in Africa, with people moving from rural areas to urban centres in search of greater opportunities.
The effect of the structural adjustment programme on the unemployment crisis in Africa cannot be overemphasised. In almost all the countries where it has been implemented, the result has been economic hardships: Working people are forced to work harder and longer for lower wages, and are laid off in large numbers.
Unemployment has also been caused by the negligence of the leaders and their corrupt attitude, they imbibe the culture of power retention and money embezzlement, the funds needed for the development of a sector would be diverted for personal use, with this trend there is no way forward and we remain undeveloped.
In developing countries, unemployment is often caused by the urban migration that generally precedes the industrial development needed to employ those migrants. In industrial nations, most unemployment is the result of economic recessions and depressions In the Great Depression of the 1930s unemployment rose to 25% of the workforce in Germany, Great Britain, and the United States.
The main reason for the high level of unemployment is technological progress. Don’t get me wrong; progress is good and it makes life easier. But if every year we produce the same amount of goods with fewer people — in a few years far less working hours are needed to produce all the goods that are required. The historical trend has been to use less and less working hours per week. If we do not continue this trend, the supply of working hours is greater than the demand. An oversupply of working hours means they are worth less, wages and salaries get reduced. Also many persons are out of work; their working hours are no longer needed. Those that are out of work have no income and therefore the demand for goods goes down. With fewer sales, less gets produced, more persons are laid off. This is a vicious circle that accelerates unemployment and produces crime; because some will turn to crime to obtain income.
The way to stop this and have everybody working is to continue the historical trend; is to distribute the available work between all persons that want to work
SOCIAL EFFECTS OF UNEMPLOYMENT
At a social level, prolonged unemployment usually results in some form of social pathology, as reflected by an increased crime rate and violent agitators. It breeds discontent against the state, and any slight provocative issue or incident may trigger violent demonstrations and social unrest, which may result in loss of life and damage to property, if the situation is not handled properly by the authorities.
In Nigeria in 1988, petrol price increases and fare increases initiated by the structural adjustment programme were met with a spontaneous uprising against the government, followed by a second demonstration in July 1989. Similarly in Zambia in December 1986 and early 1987, demonstrations broke out in the Copper Belt when maize meal price increases were announced.
The destruction of family life is another social consequence of unemployment. Unemployment reduces the social status and self-esteem of an individual. It causes scarcity of money for household maintenance and other essentials of life, including payment of the children’s school fees. This usually results in constant family feuds and friction, with the wife demanding money for food and housekeeping, which the unemployed husband cannot provide. Nagging and incessant quarrels ensue, and sometimes also wife battering, when the unemployed husband vents his frustration on the defenceless wife. This may result in a divorce if the situation does not improve, leading to a broken home and its dire future consequences for the children.
In an attempt to escape from the hopelessness of the situation, the unemployed may indulge in excessive consumption of alcohol, usually the cheap local brew with its potential health repercussions; especially for the liver but also for physical health in general. The stake may eventually be raised to include drug abuse, and in order to sustain the habit, the unemployed may engage in petty crime such as pick pocketing, stealing or, in the case of females, prostitution. If the substance abuse becomes excessive, the individual may die of an overdose.
In order to reduce the unemployment situation and to improve the health of the unemployed in Africa, the following solutions are proposed:
- African governments must pay greater attention to internal resource mobilisation, less external borrowing, fiscal discipline, a maintenance culture and indigenous entrepreneurial development.
- There must be increased resource allocation out of national budgets for employment promotion activities.
- High priority should be accorded to the promotion of rural employment through increased support for rural agro and cottage industries, the rural service sector and infrastructural development.
- Efforts must be intensified to increase productivity and income through the informal sector, and governments should increase their efforts to facilitate greater access of operators in the informal sector to the means of production such as land, capital and improved management technology and training in order to facilitate the marketing of their products.
- There should be an expansion of the primary health care programme to make provision for free health care for the unemployed and their family as part of a relief package. A health care delivery system should also be introduced into the informal sector.
- There should be measures to increase unemployment benefits and an expansion of social welfare programmes, including the distribution of food and clothing and the subsidisation of rents.
- Public work projects (such as food-for-work programmes which do not conflict with food production policies) and voluntary work should be provided to keep the unemployed occupied.
- Governments should help people to cope by finding other ways of fulfilling the needs satisfied by employment.
If these proposed solutions could be implemented by the various African governments, the health and longevity of our people would be enhanced and preserved.