Roland Dubois, president of the Youth Employment Program, spoke to AfricaMoney on how the youth must change their mindset to counter the growing menace of unemployment. Our financial expert touched upon how qualification mismatch with industry demand and lack of employability skills were adversely impacting job prospects of young Mauritians.

  • Can you please give your views on joblessness among the youth in Mauritius?

To give a broader perspective, youth unemployment is a world problem and not just a problem that affects Mauritius. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) gave a global forecast of 74.5 million unemployed youth for 2014, which is quite a significant number. In countries like Spain, for instance, youth unemployment is over 55%, Italy, over 42%, France, over 25% and for the Euro zone overall, it is over 24%. On the other hand, Mauritius has a youth unemployment rate of 24%. So, let us say that these countries are worse off than us while we are worse off than other countries like Germany, Australia, Norway and Japan, which have a youth unemployment rate of less than 10%.

  • What are the main causes of youth unemployment in Mauritius?

I would say there are many reasons. To begin with, we do not have a sufficient growth rate to fuel job creation. The current GDP growth rate of about 3.4% is not enough to create as many jobs as needed. Equally, I would like to point out that there are many foreigners working in Mauritius.

Another issue is the problem of mismatch of qualifications. With respect to Mauritian graduates for instance, there were about 2,200 university graduates who were unemployed in 2012 according to Statistics Mauritius. You have qualified graduates on one hand, and, on the other hand, we have employers looking for professionals. Unfortunately, the qualifications of the youth are not those that are required by the industry.

For instance, in the management discipline, we have 582 youth with management degrees in Mauritius – 460 with a BSc management and 122 with BSc in Business Administration – who are registered with us. Of these, we have placed only 126, which means that all the others are queuing up to get a job. So I would say that we have too many graduates in that particular field.

We also have too many graduates in languages and in economics, to cite a few. In economics, we have 142 youth registered with us and we managed to place only 24 while languages is the worst off – out of 115 registered we have placed only 4.

On the brighter side, there are certain sectors like civil engineering where we have placed 80%. Fashion textile, engineering and computer skills are the other sector skills that are much in demand by industry. ICT is a sector where we do not face many problems in placing the youth.

The other problem that we have is not just a qualification mismatch but also lack of skills. For instance, a company told me that all graduates in ICT who have come to it have to start afresh because the software they used at university level is obsolete. Also, companies look for people who have experience and a youth who just graduated from university does not have the necessary working experience.

Another issue is lack of employability skills. Youth have just been taught to concentrate on their field of studies, however they are not aware of the labour market, they lack communication and CV writing skills, and they do not even know how to convince and negotiate with people. When asked what kind of job they want, they are prone to reply “any job”, but this is a serious matter of their career!

  • It’s been almost a year since the Youth Employment Programme (YEP) has been launched. Where do we stand now?

The program was officially launched by the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development on January 29 last year. We signed the first contract with an employer on February 5, 2013. As at Tuesday, the 11thof March, we have placed 4,860 youth in companies 17% of whom possess a degree, 24% an HSC, 25% SC and 26% do not even have an SC. We have gone beyond what we set ourselves as target – the YEP is working and is already a well-known program. Since the beginning of this year, 1,805 youth and 154 employers have registered and we have already placed 681 unemployed youth in companies.

The criteria of YEP are: youth must be between 16 and 30 and they must be unemployed for 90 days or more with or without any qualification. We have placed many youth specialised in ICT, management and business administration, engineering, accounting and human resources management. Sectors that have recruited most are ICT, Manufacturing, Commerce, Hotels and Tourism.

  • You said the YEP has been an “inspiring success” in 2013 whereby more than 4,000 youth have been placed in private companies. According to you, what are the key factors of this success?

At the foundation of that success is private-public partnership in the form of the skills working group which manages the YEP. It is co-chaired by myself and the director of the Joint Economic Council and comprises, amongst its members, the director of the Mauritius Employment Federation, as a key industry representative. We engage in aggressive marketing efforts whereby we go and present the project in different industry associations to canvass employers. We are visible in the written press, on television and radio, and we also participate in career fairs to spread awareness about the YEP.

By Marie-Lorry Coret and Marie Cecilia Samoisi

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