Employment Crunch

In the following years, Ethiopia will have its highest number of graduates ever leave universities around the country. However, there is a severe shortage of employment opportunities for these graduates to fill. As a result many are left with jobs like cobblestone paving, far from their field of study and dream job. Reports FASIKA TADESSE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.

On Tuesday morning August 5, 2014, Tibebu Hailu was busy handing out Finch, a one-sheet list of 10 job vacancies, to university graduates desperate for a job. Finch is a compilation of vacancies from various newspapers, and the job seekers crowding around the corner, near Jolly Bar at Arat Kilo Square, pay him 75 cents to check the list, which he organizes by categories, such as field of study or employer, with NGOs coming on separate sheets.

Together with four other team members, they charge one Birr to those who want to check for jobs on the newspapers, including the Amharic edition of the Reporter newspaper and the two state dailies, the Herald and Addis Zemen.

Desta Abebe, a native of Adigrat, Tigray region, and a graduate from Dire Dawa University in June 2013 in statistics, moved to Addis Abeba to live with his elder brother in the hope that the city would be a better place for job opportunities. For the past year now he has been visiting Tibebu’s corner three to four times a week.

“Since July 2013, I applied to almost 40 companies and sat for 20 tests, but none of the companies would hire me,” he said. “Most of my friends who graduated in my field have failed to find a job.”

Desta is one of the 72,197 graduates during the 2012/13 academic year from 30 universities around the country. Before he could even find a job, his competition had more than doubled with 84,527 new graduates from public and private higher education institutions joining the employment market in the 2013/14 academic year. Governmental institutions account for 60,061 of these graduates, according to the Ministry of Education.

The government introduced what is known as 70:30 in 2010/11 with 70pc of students joining universities going to natural science fields and 30pc to social fields. Under this scheme, 40pc of those going to science fields end up in engineering and 20pc in basic sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics, five percent in agriculture and the remaining five percent are trained in health science.

From the 30pc of social science students the major share is in the business and economics fields and the remaining 10pc is in other social science departments such as law, language and literature.

The idea was that Ethiopia would need a lot of science and technology graduates for the kinds of jobs that would be created. Nevertheless, at least for now, it seems there are more job offers for those among the 30pc.

F.T.A Advertising, owner of one of the two advertisement boards at Arat Kilo, receives 30 job vacancy announcements every five days, and some 25 of these are for accountants, salespeople and managers, according to the owner of the company, who declined to be named.

The month of June, when a new fiscal year is about to begin and universities are about to graduate students, sees the beginning of a rise for both jobs and employees. Most of the job hunters have degrees in law or applied sciences such as physics, biology, and chemistry, all in less demand at FTA.

“On average 50 jobseekers visit my office every day to register and less than 10 of them are graduates of business and finance,” he said.

Mahlet Gebreeyesus, graduated in information technology from the Addis Abeba Institute of Technology (AAiT) a year ago, has been working as a secretary for the past two months at a furniture importing company. She is yet to find a job in her field of study, unlike her luckier friends who have studied such fields as economics.

Irrespective of the field of study, the government has been promoting small & micro enterprises as good opportunities for job seekers with cobblestone work as one of the most important activities where it is encouraging the graduates to join. Not all of the graduates are going to be hired by the government and private institutions, says Ahmed Siraje, public relation officer at the Ministry of Education (MoE), adding that the graduates should also be self-employed or take advantage of opportunities created by the Federal Small & Micro Scale Enterprises Development Agency (FSMSDE).

The Agency has created employment for 1.5 million people in 2013/14, of which 94,173 were graduates. That is up from half a million in 2009/10. In addition to this, the Metal & Engineering Corporation (MetEC) has employed 32,527 graduates. The number of university graduates registered with the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing & Construction, as job seekers during the year were 40,864, while those from colleges and technical & vocational schools numbered 139,692.

The construction of condominiums and cobblestone roads does have demand for engineering graduates, says Ahmed.

At Info Mind Solutions Plc, an online employment company, fresh graduates are beginning to get increased interest from employers over the past two years, according to Hilina Legesse, the online service manager.

Info Mind Solutions, the parent company of Talent Search and Ethio Jobs, has served 500 corporate and government clients in recruitment for the last 14 years. Its services include recruitment, training, payroll management and consultancy.

Most of its clients are business companies and NGOs who want to hire sales, marketing and management workers, Hilina says. In recent years the company is receiving requests from newly founded companies such as Diageo, owner of Meta Abo Brewey; Unilever Ethiopia PLC, cosmetics manufacture, and Heineken Brewery, owner of Harar and Bedelle beers, who seek engineering graduates.

“We do not receive requests from the employers to hire graduates of other natural science departments” added Hilina.

The Ethiopian Revenue & Customs Authority (ERCA) a perpetual employer of fresh graduates in the fields of accounting & finance, economics and law – an average of 1,500 a year, which it trains for 45 days at a cost of 10,000 Br per head, says Ephrem Mekonen communication directorate at the ERCA. The minimum academic requirement is a cumulative GPA of either 2.75 or 3.25, which varies from time to time. The authority also loses many employees every year – 1,981 in the just ended fiscal year – to other employers, almost half of whom are fresh graduates. Their reasons for quitting include starting their own businesses, finding better employment elsewhere, and fear of discovery of corrupt practices related to tax estimation, Ephrem says.

Not many employers are like ERCA and are seeking thousands of employees regularly. As the number of graduates increases, growing from 71,723 in 2009/10 to 97,527 in 2013/14 from public and private higher education institutions, so is the number of new entrants into such institutions – from 434,629 to 597,000 during the same period.

Hilina at Info Mind says that her company has difficult satisfying the employers as most of the candidates are incompetent, while a single vacancy announced through their web site attracts 150 to 200 candidates for each vacancy.

Urban unemployment in Ethiopia is showing some improvement, going down from 20.4pc to 16.5pc between 2009/10 and 2013/14, a period during which the GDP of the country increased by over 60pc from 28.2 billion dollars to 46 billion dollars. For those university graduates, with degrees in various fields of science, their best opportunity for employment may be lurking somewhere in the quarries producing the cobblestones or paving roads or when they get together and form the small and micro enterprises which the government considers as strategic tools of creating employment.

Those who find it hard to find jobs have been the bread and butter for Tibebu and his friends who have seen his business boom progressively over the past five years as they continue to organize their list of vacancies. For now, it seems the road ahead for graduate employment will be a tough one.


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