Unemployment has various definitions, and, in some cases, it’s described as a social problem. According to Mills (2000), there is a distinction between personal and public issues and there are many social, economic and political factors that affect individuals and communities at large. This post focuses on describing how youth unemployment is a social issue that affects the larger population of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is one of the developing countries that still face the enormity of the issue of youth unemployment. Data from the International Labor Organisation (ILO) show that, youth face unemployment three times as much as adults (O’Higgins, 2001). The number of employed youth has declined worldwide and many countries are working on policies to improve the conditions among youth that pose a threat to social order and stability. I will argue that youth unemployment is especially problematic in Zimbabwe, showing how it affects young individuals who seek advancement in their careers. Youth unemployment leads to an increase in crime rates, depression, family disintegration, and poverty, conditions that destroy or damage societies. According to the United Nations (UN), those aged 15 to 24 suffer greatly (O’Higgins, 2001).
Mpofu and Chimhenga (2016) state that unemployment has social and political implications within the urban centers of Zimbabwe. In urban areas, most youth are jobless; many companies do not offer opportunities to young people. After graduating from college, youth find it difficult to pursue job careers, as the number of graduates outnumber the number of opportunities (Mpofu and Chimhenga, 2016). Worse, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have shut down and this makes things worse for young energetic people who seek employment. As jobless youth try to find ways to make a living, they end up engaging in criminal activities to provide for their families. This is common in most urban areas of Zimbabwe like Harare, Bulawayo, and Mutare, where crime rates have increased (Munzwa and Wellington, 2010). This increase in crime poses a security threat; with youth involved in theft, many people fear for their lives, property, and families and as a result this creates social unrest in urban areas. When people do not feel safe for their families it affects their well-being.
Further, when young adults are stranded without any opportunity for employment, they migrate to other countries. Youth are the largest group that travel to neighboring countries illegally, without a permit or travel document (Chirisa and Mushin, 2011). Zimbabwean youths mostly travel to countries like South Africa, where they often bear the burden of being used as cheap labor, without protection from the law, which, in turn, affects their health and well-being. The pressure to survive and look for opportunities to help support their families become daunting and as a result some youths fall into depression, along with their families (Chirisa and Mushini, 2011). Moreover, youth unemployment worsens the social condition of individuals, leading to poverty, homelessness and many other harsh conditions.
Educated youth in Zimbabwe face difficulties in coping with the condition of being jobless. Blyton and Jenkins (2010, quoted in Bhebhe et al. 2015) state that “unemployment reduces the affected individual’s self-worth.” Educated youth start feeling embarrassed after attaining qualifications and they even avoid revealing their qualifications when seeking employment. Sometimes, they do not find any opportunity for longer periods and this is dangerous because it diminishes the value of human capital. Thus, educated youth begin to feel “useless” in the long run and they become trapped in poverty. This leads to permanent unemployment, which affects the social stability of many family structures, including extended families (Bhebhe et al., 2015). The unemployed youth then start spending their time on street corners sharing their sorrows with one another. Bad habits may develop, including the use of illegal substances and engaging in violence. As mentioned earlier, the youth may develop criminal mindsets (Chirisa and Muchini, 2011). Even the way they dress, talk and socialize with others becomes different, and they rebel against the norms of society.
All these factors concerning youth unemployment may influence or impact family integration; for example, Bhebhe et al., (2015) note that marriages and families break apart due to unemployment, as young adults are faced with difficulty in taking care of their families. That is, many divorces occur due to the lack of finances. In Zimbabwe, culturally, men are supposed to provide for their families with financial and emotional support, and protection, because of the patriarchal system that exists. But due to the levels of unemployment, they are forced to abandon their families, and, in most cases, they migrate to other areas leaving their families behind (Bhebhe et al., 2015). This disintegration of marriages and families affects the social order that exist in communities because the family is one of the most important institutions of society. Likewise, family separation or divorce can affect children mentally and emotionally, and the hardships or trauma faced by these children can lead them down dark paths, including drug addiction, crime, dropping out of school, and abuse.
In short, youth unemployment is a problem that causes deep social issues in Zimbabwe. It’s important to pay attention to this matter because it damages society in many ways. Youth, who are the future leaders of tomorrow’s society, contribute to the social conditions of many families. Without proper investment into young people, a country’s economy dies, poverty increases, families or marriages break apart, unsettledness rises, and social unrest grows. Thus, investing in young people should be fundamental to the development of societies. There is a need to implement new strategies and policies that empower youth. Many educated youth are finding it difficult to join the labor market and there seems to be less effort invested in improving the situation. With the current pandemic, the situation has worsened, and Zimbabwe is among other developing countries facing increased poverty, social unrest, and economic downfall. Lastly, the unavailability of up-to-date research into youth unemployment in Zimbabwe calls for action to invest in collecting data and developing solutions that may assist in reducing unemployment.
Justice Munzvandi is a Master’s degree student of Sociology
This post was written in conjunction with the master’s sociology course “Writing Sociology,” at the Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University, taught by B. Nadya Jaworsky.
Bhebhe, T. B., Sulochana, N., Muranda, Z., Sifile, O., & Chavhunduka, D. M. (2015). Effects of the educated youth unemployment nexus in Zimbabwe. IOSR Journal of the Humanities and Social Science, 20(10), 01-11.
Chirisa, I., & Muchini, T. (2011). Youth, Unemployment and Peri-Urbanity in Zimbabwe: a snapshot of lessons from Hatcliffe. International Journal of Politics and Good Governance, 2(2.2), 1-15.
Mills, C. W. (2000). The sociological imagination. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.
Mpofu, J., & Chimhenga, S. (2016). Unemployment and Implications to Social and Political Conflict: Perspectives from Zimbabwe. Journal of Research & Method in Education, 6(3), 08-13.
Munzwa, K., & Wellington, J. (2010). Urban development in Zimbabwe: a human settlement perspective. Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management, 5(5 (14), 120-146.
O’Higgins, N. (2001). Youth unemployment and employment policy: A global perspective. Geneva, Switzerland: ILO Publications.