Labour and Social Security Minister, Fackson Shamenda, says government is concerned that positive economic growth recorded in the last decade has not translated into improved living conditions for the Zambian people.
Mr Shamenda says the majority of Zambian youths had in the last 20 years remained unemployed, ill-educated and without any formal skills to enable them earn a living in society and contribute to national development.
He says Zambia had a youthful population with nearly 74 per cent of its 14.6 million people under the age of 30.
“This population is critical to the attainment of the country’s development objectives and for this to happen, there is need for sustained and strategic investment in young people,” he said.
The Labour Minister said investing in youth development was no longer just an emerging priority for ensuring equity but the justifiable thing to do.
Mr Shamenda said this on Wednesday at the opening of the Work-4-Youth Regional Conference organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO), at Avani Victoria Falls Resort in Livingstone.
The conference is being held under the theme, ‘What works to boost labour demand for youth: The role of structural transformation’.
Earlier, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, Aeneas Chuma, said two in three youths in Sub-Sahara Africa, remained in working poverty, living with their families below US$2 per day.
Mr Chuma noted that employment for most youths was not “productive”, adding that such trends needed to be reversed.
“We must envision a different policy scenario in which youth employment is among the main goals of macro-economic policy frameworks, and also a priority for fiscal policy,” he said.
He further said maximising the gains from structural changes and boosting labour demand for youth in the region would require placing emphasis on a multi-faceted strategy promoting agricultural diversification and expansion of the productive segments of the industrial and services sector.
Mr Chuma said youth unemployment was an urgent priority for the Africa region and more needed to be done to meet the expectations of the youths.
And Zambia Federation of Employers Executive Director, Harrington Chibanda, cited low quality of education and training without proper links to the labour market as the major cause of weak labour market integration of the youth.
Mr Chibanda said this could be resolved by adopting integrated approaches that consider both sides of the labour market effectively and involve all sectors of society, including the youth themselves in the decision making process.
He called for full employment to be a key objective of national macro-economic policies supported by effective policy coherence on pro-employment, education, relevant skills development and training, labour market policies and youth entrepreneurship.