Sunday, September 27, 2020

Unemployment stop gap should not derail the nation from sustainable employment creation!

Government has announced that, henceforth, university graduates who are not able to get employment will continue to draw allowances from government until such time that they get some form of employment.

In other words, the government will continue spending money on students well beyond their stay at institutions of learning.

Everyone would agree that, however rich, we could be (and Botswana is not a rich country), the scheme is inherently unsustainable.

Making this all too important announcement at his constituency in Mahalapye, Vice President General Mompati Merafhe also told his audience that the new development is meant to reduce graduate unemployment.

While we welcome the government’s decision, we hope that this new measure is only a stop gap safety valve that will now act as a substitute for employment creation.

Our belief is that the Botswana system continues to produce a cadre of graduates that are, by and large, employable.

The problem, of course, is that there have to be structural changes that have to be implemented in our education system.
What the economy needs and is in short supply of is a high amount of tradesmen, artisans and engineers.

What we, therefore, need to be concentrating on is building more technical schools and Brigades.
We need to change our mindset and perception towards blue collar jobs.
The nations that will compete in this century are nations that are wise enough to see before hand the kind of trades the world economy will need.

As so many people often point out, labour, which is appropriately trained for the needs of this fast changing world, will become a very valuable commodity, which in the near future will become a prized commodity that nations would scramble for; that is if that is not already happening.

While we think the new government’s decision is a good one, especially because we have always held that youth unemployment in Botswana constituted a security risk, we hope that government will not be as careless enough as to think this stop gap measure will be a panacea to problems of unemployment.

Unemployment breeds a loss of dignity and personal self esteem and there is no way a person who lives like a student for the rest of their lives (unless they get employment) would, along the way, not begin to outgrow the handouts they would be earning from government.

While the new arrangement will provide government with a breather while serious measures are put in place to create employment, we want to emphasise our hope that this initiative is temporary.
This is because, in the long-term, it is not sustainable and, if not properly implemented, could backfire as to be counterproductive.

Given the fact that as a nation our diamond resources, which have sustained us for so long, are depletable, what we should be looking up to is creating a large revenue pool from the people in which our diamonds proceeds have been educated through education.

It is sad that instead of such people finding sustainable forms of employment and being able to pay tax, they are now, under circumstances not of their making, asked to continue an existence exactly in the confines of a student life – this despite the fact that such people would have served their dues inside the academic halls.

Once again, we hope this is not the beginning of a government that will very soon start to throw the hard earned money at problems.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.