The good old days. This is one of Botswana’s most abused clichés. For most university degree holders who graduated in the early 1990s, the axiom however rings true. In the good old days, their degrees allowed them to choose among the most alluring jobs, move from home strike out on their own and start their own families.
Time and tide and Botswana’s depressed job market is radically changing this picture. These days, a growing number of Batswana homes are beginning to look like Great Depression-era families that had three generations under one roof, with able bodies men and women unemployed and unable to leave home.
Statistics Botswana Labour Force Module report for Q3 2019 puts the graduate joblessness rate at 9.6% in addition to 26% of youth unemployment rate.
The figures are markers of a country facing a huge Failure to Launch Syndrome. They point to untold depressing stories of thousands of Batswana young men and women in their prime who are stuck at home, financially dependent and unable to start their own families.
Nuptiality Levels and Trends in Botswana, a research study by Gobopamang Letamo,Kenabetsho Bainame, and Motsholathebe Bowelo revealed the true extend on Botswana’s emerging Failure to Launch Syndrome.
The study which examined emerging marriage patterns and trends in Botswana using population census data from 1971 to 2011 found that, “fewer and fewer men and women who are eligible for marriage are getting married.”
The study further revealed that, “the percentage of the population married declined from 42.9% among women and 47.1% among men in 1971 to 17.9% and 18.8% respectively in 2011. The proportion of population who were unmarried increased from 37.0% among women and 44.0% among men to 53.4% and 58.1% respectively in the same period.”
The crisis of Botswana’s growing multi-generational households
is not helped by the country’s emerging boomerang generation. These are adults, single or married, perhaps with children, who had moved out at the appropriate time to strike it out on their own, only to return home to live with mom and dad following a failed marriage or the loss of a job.
According to figures from Statistics Botswana, the country’s unemployment rate increased to 18.19% in December 2019. This is a huge jump from the record low of 13.82% in December 1991, during the good old days. Behind these numbers are thousands of men and women who have lost their jobs in the past two decades forcing some to go back home. They joined a growing legion of “return soldiers” who go back home following failed marriages.
Figures from the High Court reveal that the divorce rate has been increasing over the years. In 2014 a total of 1088 divorce cases were registered with the High Court. The figure shot to 1190 in 2015 increasing to 1316 in 2016.
One of the regular features in former Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo’s Legal Year speeches was the growing rate of divorces in Botswana. He expressed concern in his 2011, 2013 and 2017 speeches.
In their research paper, Gobopamang Letamo,Kenabetsho Bainame and Motsholathebe Bowelo propose that, “in light of these changes, it is imperative that detailed studies are undertaken to have an in-depth understating of the causes and consequences of the changing nuptiality patterns in Botswana.”
Saddled with children who areunemployed, divorced or going through the Failure to Launch Syndrome are growing number of Botswana parents are grappling with whether they should come to their children’s aid by providing financial help or inviting them to live at home until they are back on their feet.
Kgomotso Jongman of Jo’Speaks in Gaborone says, “it is known that often children may stay home well after their twenties. Some parents are in no hurry to drive their kids into the cold, cruel world. They allow them to go to college and stay home, reducing their children’s stress. While some parents are totally against their children coming back home, especially since sometimes their children come their own kids which can be a lot for some parents, financially and otherwise. I think adult children need to know that their parents want them to be on their own. Out in the world, making their way, paying their own bills, having their own success and failures. They have no intention of taking care of them for the rest of their lives. But make no mistake, your life is your own. You are responsible for what happens to it after their obligatory eighteen years of stewardship. You must make the best of it and put your best foot forward in the world as we know it.”
Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, senior Social Work lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “People tend to think that say maybe white parents treat or welcome their kids back as opposed to our cultural/cultured parents, I think we need to move away from that impression. There are parents who are well off but reject their kids from coming back home when life knocks them and especially since “white’ parents emphasize independence and individualism as compared to African parents who grew up in a communal kind of life where you are expected to help your fellow brother. Parents regardless of their financial status can be emotionally abusive to their adult children regarding the situation, they lash out at their kids not knowing what went wrong with them coming back home.”