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Tracking Somalia’s Working Women and Youth

Women make up half the national population, while the youth are the largest population demographic; where are they in the national labour force?

By TSI writer

Here are a few facts you probably do not know: Women account for 50.0 per cent of the population of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Among the 3.7 million persons aged 15 years and over, it was estimated (in 2019) that 52.7 per cent were women.

What do these figures imply?

First, these figures show that women in Somalia as labour resource is as significant as the male labour resource. Second, knowing the participation of women in what can be referred to as active/ commercial labour in the country; women, as a labour resource, are greatly untapped.

The reason for the two assumptions above is that despite their significant share of the national population, the labour force indicators of women lag behind that of men. The labour force participation rate of the nation in 2019 when Labour Force Survey was conducted was about 32.4 per cent which was significantly brought down by the much lower labour force participation rate for women of 20.3 per cent. The women’s rate was less than half that of men, which was 45.9 per cent.

Financially empowered women

It is common knowledge that financially empowered women (which is often achieved by their active participation in productive endeavours) is a lucrative consumer base. Women with substantial purchasing power are a dream market segment for any manufacture or entrepreneur. Because women still control kitchen and household expenditure across the globe, because they still control purchases for children below 18 in most countries, and because of the influence they wield over the actions of the family such as when to go on vacation, when to move to a new house and at times which private school the children attend; financially empowering women through inclusion the country’s labour force should be a priority.

Putting aside the benefits of a financially empowered population, the presence of women at the workplace in Somalia, say for example at 40 per cent against men’s 45.9 per cent would be a huge boost to the output and deliverables (might increase it by a significant margin) of various sectors of the economy.

More women outside labour force

“More females were outside the labour force at 79.7 per cent compared to the percentage of men outside the labour force, which was at 54.1 per cent. The overall employment to population ratio, the proportion of individuals that is employed, was 25.5 per cent and was lower for females at 14.7 per cent relative to 37.5 per cent for men,”

Labour Force Survey Report 2019 by the SNBS.

If women above the age of 15 years make 50 per cent of the total population of persons above that age, it is concerning that only 20.3 per cent of them are actively contributing to the country’s labour force while 45.9 per cent of men are. The numerical representation of this imbalance in labour force involvement by gender doesn’t bode well for the country.

“More females were outside the labour force at 79.7 per cent compared to the percentage of men outside the labour force, which was at 54.1 per cent. The overall employment to population ratio, the proportion of individuals that is employed, was 25.5 per cent and was lower for females at 14.7 per cent relative to 37.5 per cent for men,” Labour Force Survey Report 2019 by the SNBS.

The relatively low ratios for women suggest that a large share of the female population is not involved directly in labour market-related activities either because they are outside the labour force or they are unemployed. There may be a need to enhance the opportunity basket for women in the country.

How can this be changed?

One of the areas of intervention to enhance women’s participation in the country’s workforce is in the broad area of education and training.

The report reveals that the ‘Not in Employment and Not in Education or Training (NEET)’ ratio is generally high for young people; however, it is particularly high for young women – and a half (or 50.2 per cent) of all females aged 15 to 24 years were neither at work nor school/training. The NEET ratio for those aged 15 to 29 years was 57.3 per cent for females relative to 38.5 per cent for males.

Education for women and young people is one of the world’s most tried and trusted ways of balancing social and economic inequalities. Even from the report, it is clear that ensuring that ladies go to school and that the youth, in general, acquire education will greatly improve the country’s workforce.

Youth labour force participation

The 2019 survey looked at youth labour force participation, unemployment and education in detail. The report shows the labour force participation rate of the youth

(15 to 24 years) for Somalia is about 17.8 per cent. The rate seems to decrease with education and is lowest for those with secondary and vocational training. It is highest for those with lower primary (57 per cent) and university education (41 per cent).

Per the report, the correlation between unemployment and education level is such that the unemployment rate seems to decline as educational attainment increases.

It shows that education, and by extension, learning institutions have a significant role to play in solving the skilled labour availability challenge that business owners and investors face in the country.

The study of youth neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) by the SNBSprovide an accurate measure of the youth who are outside the educational system and not in employment.

A high NEET rate implies a relatively precarious situation for the country since these young people, besides being unemployed, lack the skills to improve their financial and social situation and thus risk becoming excluded from full productive participation the society.

The Federal Republic of Somalia had (in 2019) an estimated youth (15 to 24) population of nearly 1.4 million out of which 44.2 per cent were ‘Not in Employment and Not in Education or Training (NEET)’. The NEET rate is higher among the female youth (50.2 per cent) than among the male youth (37.7 per cent).

This has to change; with the education of both young girls and young boys made a priority, this is a problem that is easily fixable in the coming 10-20 years.

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