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Youth Unemployment in Post-Conflict Liberia

By Martin K. N. Kollie    Martin K.N. Kollie



Young people account for about 65% of Liberia’s 4.4 million population. This means that Liberia has a youthful population that is capable of serving either as a driving force of economic growth and   development   or   a   risky   channel   of   violence   and   insecurity.   Creating   employment, empowerment and educational opportunities for young Liberians is very crucial to sustaining peace and harmony beyond UNMIL’s departure in June of this year.

Widespread youth unemployment in post-war Liberia is a serious issue that requires the rapid and collective response of major stakeholders and global partners. The risk youth unemployment poses to Liberia is too high. State-actors and policymakers have no choice, but to work towards mitigating this existing crisis.

Taking concrete and aggressive steps toward addressing growing challenges confronting young Liberians is essential to cultivating socio-economic equality and political stability. Liberia was plagued by almost two (2) decades of civil unrest and anarchy due to socio-economic exclusion and political marginalization.  This led to   thousands of young   people taking up   arms and ammunitions to protest   against legitimate   regimes.

These youths were mostly used by politicians to perpetuate chaos and orchestrate hideous   atrocities.   This   is   what   happens   when   idleness consumes a young and energetic generation without any set agenda. William E. Barrett said “Hunger is not the worst feature of unemployment; idleness is.” Liberia had no reason to endure such a dark age if there was access to equal opportunities for young people.

As a result of this national quagmire, we have a lot of ex-combatants who remain poverty-stricken and vulnerable to post-war trauma. Over 84,000 ex-combatants and dissidents of various warring factions who fought between 1989 and 2003 remain an integral part of our society since peace returned to Liberia in August 2003.

This   is   just   a   small   component   of   those who   lack   access   to jobs   and   social   security.  The reconciliation and reconstruction process of Liberia can never achieve its ultimate objectives when youth unemployment is at its peak. The nation is susceptible to degenerate into another shocking scene of bloodletting and butchery if swift and sustainable solutions to addressing youth issues are not derived.

Youth unemployment in Liberia is as high as 85% according to the United Nations. About 35% of males and 42% of females in youth category are detached from the job market in Liberia due to the lack of proper skills and training. These scaring statistics must provoke national leaders and partners to focus more on finding lasting remedy to youth issues.

The number of Liberians from age 15-35 years old who are available and willing to work, but without a job is too alarming. This is a warning sign to peace and security. Liberia will remain a fragile state until youth unemployment is adequately addressed. The impact of this nightmare (youth unemployment) on growth and development is excruciating.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), African youth in future decades will be the driving force of economic prosperity if the right policies and programs are implemented to create employment opportunities for them. This is so true and applies directly to Liberia. Liberia has not done enough to ensure productivity through job creation for young people.

Moving beyond this ill-fated status requires intentional sacrifice and integrated national approach. According to Liberia’s Labor Force Survey, 1.1 million Liberians (a quarter of the population) are part of the labor force in Liberia. Unfortunately, there are only 195,000 people who have paid jobs. This means that the other 850,000, which mainly comprises young people, are vulnerably employed or self-employed in the informal economy. They have no decent or profitable work.

Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all can only be achievable in Liberia by 2030 if youth development takes center stage. Reducing poverty in Liberia starts with youth education and employment. Liberia’s road to genuine recovery and rebuilding is anchored youth empowerment.

The overriding success of Vision 2030 and the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) in Liberia is intertwined with access to job opportunities for young people. In so far most Liberian youth are less busy and economically weak, the rate of hardship, drug abuse, gambling, prostitution, armed robbery and burglary will remain sky-scraping.

Post-conflict Liberia is yet to offer a concrete option or new deal to reducing entrenched poverty and depression across Liberia. The situation of youth unemployment in rural communities is disturbing. The government and its partners need to invest more resources into tertiary, technical and vocational education. This is a genuine approach to find lasting cure to Liberia’s economic woes.

Providing continuous business training and microloan to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as well as building a vibrant hub of an emerging business community that is youth-driven is vital to enhancing prosperity in Liberia. For Liberia to experience economic expansion, it needs to support a young generation whose vision is to create sustainable and decent jobs.

Liberia   needs   more   young   innovators   and   entrepreneurs   who   are   passionate   about   driving inclusive CHANGE. Beyond this end, prioritizing youth issues through realistic and proactive investment   should   be   a   leading   national   agenda.   National   income   and   output   will   sharply increase in Liberia if youth employment is given immediate consideration.

The US$2.1 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Liberia which represents less than 0.01 percent of the world economy can rise steadily if policies and programs are put in place to guarantee   youth   literacy   and   preparedness.   Liberia’s   GDP   per   capita   can   increase   above US$370.00 if there are more qualified and competent youth working in the job market. The export   of   goods   and   services   (US$774.8   million   in   2012)   in   Liberia   can   exceed   imports (US$2.275   billion   in 2012) if   Liberia   expands   its   local   capacity   and   output   through   youth investment.

Reducing youth unemployment in post-conflict Liberia cannot be overstated and overlooked. The   reality   is   that   Liberian   youth   have   become   choiceless   and   powerless   due   to   rising unemployment. The young generation of Liberians is thirsty for better livelihood and economic wellbeing. This generational aspiration is possible, but only through coordinated and concrete action.

Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian   youth activist, a   student   leader, an emerging economist and a young writer.  He currently reads Economics with distinction at UL and   is   a   loyal   stalwart   of  the   Student   Unification   Party   (SUP).   He   can   be   reached   at


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