Rashid Amin, 30, graduated with a degree in textile engineering in 2006 but since then he has never worked in his field. He has been employed in other areas related to administration and decided to change his field completely. “Unemployment is linked to society’s perception of jobs and specialisations,” he says.
He argues that the basic dilemma is the Sudanese society itself, which divides jobs into either “respectable” or “unrespectable”. “This is a real problem since all people want their children to work in specific jobs without regard to their wishes,” he says. “They do not understand that societal roles should be integrated through work itself.”
Amin says the majority of Sudanese families want their children to become doctors or engineers and do not approve of artists and musicians, for example. “This is why a large number of graduate engineers and doctors are unemployed because this is not what they have dreamt of.”
University no guarantee for work
According to a Sudanese Ministry of Labour (MoL) report, issued in May 2016, the unemployment rate in Sudan reached 19 per cent, including nearly 17 per cent among university graduates. Minister of Human Resource Development (MHRD) al-Sadig al-Hadi al-Mahdi says his ministry aimed to expand job opportunities in coordination with the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) through the establishment of colleges that meet labour market requirements.
He also suggested a number of challenges facing the MHRD, especially in the training and employment of graduates. “The unorganised training is reflected negatively on the equal distribution of opportunities,” he says. “A lack of funding has also caused a deficit suffered by the National Training Fund.”
Unemployment figures are still high in spite of government efforts to reduce it, including a loan (up to SDG 20,000, USD 3,148) offered by nearly 33 institutions affiliated with the Central Bank of Sudan. Also, the Civil Servant Selection Committee (CSSC) employs graduates as civil servants. In collaboration with the MoL, the MoHE, and the Ministry of Social Welfare train and rehabilitate young graduates to encourage them to establish small enterprises.
Underemployment and nepotism
“The real risk is youth underemployment,” says Ali al-Hag, a social researcher who works with state social welfare institutions. “The issue is rampant in the public sector where only two out of every ten civil servants actually have a job. Nepotism and favouritism are a major cause of the problem since they provide jobs for unqualified people.”
Al-Hag argues that underemployment includes those who work in a field different from their academic specialty. “All experiences have proven that people working in a field in which they have not trained have low performance,” he says. “This is clearer in fields related to theoretical studies and social work.”
Unemployment has other consequences. “Studies have proven that divorce, violence against children, harassment of all kinds, the spread of drugs among young people and other problems are linked in one way or another to unemployment,” says al-Hag. “Psychological pressure experienced by the unemployed causes many problems. This is why many social crises are associated with the unemployed.”
Al-Hag says state efforts to reduce unemployment have no strategic dimensions or clear indicators to measure unemployment. He questions the government unemployment rates, pointing out that all the declared numbers are incorrect. “Solutions such as micro-financing and the CSSC have proven to be an utter failure because the real problem is that the labour market does not accommodate the large number of graduates,” says al-Hag.
“A large number of qualified people are unemployed while a significant number of the non-qualified find jobs, thanks to their political affiliation or for social reasons. The micro-finance project is very limited in Sudan and does not help solve the unemployment problem. Propaganda and the political aspect of the project are much larger than its actual size.”
Migration as a way out
“Since my graduation in 2009, I only worked for two years and in a field different from my field of study,” says Tasneem al-Mahi who studied rural development. “I have applied for a job through the CSSC several times, but to no avail. Jobs are dedicated for certain people based on their political and social affiliations. Funding procedures are extremely difficult and require guarantees. In addition, the higher the period of loan repayment, the greater the interest. Besides, the loan amount is insufficient to start any business. Young borrowers may face some problems and go to jail because of debts.”
Al-Mahi knows a large number of young people who faced payment problems after they failed to establish enterprises due to unstable economic conditions. “Most people I know do not have a job, especially women,” she says. “Migration has become the only solution for the majority of young people in Sudan.”