By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
Ethiopia’s 2014 Urban Employment/Unemployment Survey by the Central Statistical Agency (CSA), issued in October 2014, indicates that the urban population of Ethiopia of all age groups is estimated at 16.1 million, of which 7.6 million are male and 8.5 female.
While the economically active population of the country is presented as 8.2 million i.e., 4.3 million male and 4,0 million female, the population of major towns of all ages is put as 4.6 million (2.2 million male and 2.6 million female).
A major drawback of the report is that the national unemployment rate is less clear and unconvincing, because of its opacity. The regional employment and unemployment rates are sucked in the employment ratios, instead of presenting the unemployment data as clearly as possible and explaining it how the Agency arrived at it, including the causes and problems.
Granted that it is explained in the report that the overall employment ratio to total population is estimated at 52.6 percent (63.1 percent male and 43.4 percent female). The CSA claims this is calculated, according to standards by the International Labor Organization (ILO), i.e., a percentage of total employed population – in this case nationwide – to the working age population. Nonetheless, it does not seem to speak in terms of the country’s job market reality.
The data show that, of the population in major towns, 2.4 million is employed (roughly 1.4 million male and 1.1 million female). This puts the employment to population ratio at 49.7 percent.
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The unemployment rate in 16 major towns stands at 20.7 percent, split between males and females, i.e., 13.8 percent and 28.0 percent, respectively. The burden of joblessness has disproportionately fallen on those in the age groups of 20-24, 25-29 and 30-34.
In terms of employment, the CSA report shows that the economically active population in 16 major towns is 3.0 million (1.6 million male and 1.5 million female). The most affected age groups are those between 15-19, 25-29, 30-34 and 35-39, although all age groups have their own share of the problem. It could be seen from the 16 major towns data that women are the most affected.
Of interest in the report is the fact that higher education does not seem to come to the aid of the unemployed and the job seeking, both male and female. For instance, of those presented as unemployed, there is a high number of higher certificates holders (2.5 percent); diploma and degree holders (1.6 percent), as well as those with secondary school completion certificates (20 percent).
Educated or not, the burden has been heavier on women. In the above category too, the burden has fallen heavily on educated women. In the table above, one could see that female unemployment is lowest at 12.6 percent in Gambella, while the rest range between 14.8 percent and maximum of 29.8 percent in Dessie.
The unemployment rate is also higher for those in the age of group of 45 and above. In a way, this also speaks why poverty in Ethiopia has been so profound, especially coming at an old age.
The overall unemployment rate in the regions revolves nearly around similar average, save Addis Abeba and Dire Dawa. In the bigger regions, for instance, while Amhara, Oromia and Tigray have unemployment rates of 17.6 percent, 16.1 percent and 18.4 percent, respectively, those with smaller populations show lower unemployment numbers, although in reality their situation in relative terms is as distressing.
The major occupational groups are management, various professions, technical and associate professionals, clerical support workers, service and sales workers, skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers, craft and related trades, plant and machine operators and assemblers and etc.
The informal sector absorbs 1.4 million people, half (785,239) of which are women. Their education is limited within grades 1-8, while there are also individuals with higher education: 6,771 degreed, 24,899 with diploma, 16,425 with diploma, while 144,743 have completed secondary school, according to the CSA survey.
In the informal sector the major industries are manufacturing, construction, mining and quarrying; wholesale and retail trade, other service sectors; and agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing.
Another point that requires clarification in the report is the definition of economically active population. For instance, its size is given as 1,403,702. However, in Table 5.35, this group is defined as the country level informal sector.
Definition wise, CSA accepts that unemployment includes discouraged job seekers, future start and layoffs. This is in addition to persons satisfying the standard definition of being “without work” and “those that are currently available for work”, in concert with the 1983 ILO criteria.
The first reaction of any reader is asking the question whether this survey report is prepared with the coming election in mind. I have no evidence to suggest that, save the impression that the data around the unemployment rate has been heavily massaged.