The unemployment statistics released by the Labour and Employment ministry on Tuesday speak loudly about the need for the country to put more efforts into getting more people to work.
Erick Shitindi Permanent Secretary in the ministry said a survey in 2010 put the number of unemployed people at 2.7 million against the overall population of 43,187 million.
While noting that the number of Tanzanians employed in formal sector stands at 19.9 million, 8.580 million of them young men and women, he also acknowledged that rural-urban immigration among the youth, partly contributed to increased unemployment in the country.
He admitted that the ministry faced a big challenge in coming up with specific programmes to increase employment among the people.
The issue of employment touches directly on the livelihoods of people and the prosperity of the nation.
The fewer the people engaged in economically productive work, the more dependent the nation becomes handouts to run its affairs. In our situation, it is generally assumed that a working father or mother has on average between five and seven people depending on that income.
When applied to the 2.7 million unemployed people, and knowing our extended family syndrome, it means there could easily be around 19 million people without reliable income support.
This is especially serious when it is borne in mind that the country does not have a developed social security network to offer relief to the jobless.
At another level, the situation means that the government cannot collect income tax from the 2.7 million people for they have no assured income. If they all had work and were paying income tax of say 1,000/- per month for example, the government could easily realise an extra 32.4bn/- in revenues annually; not a small sum by any standards.
More revenue could of course be realised through the multiplier effect of the production activities and purchasing power of the 2.7 million people.
While it is a daydream in our situation to expect the government to find jobs for the 2.7 million people, the issue needs serious action oriented solution.
What is needed is a campaign to change mindsets about unemployment.
The call by the Public Accounts Committee on the government to work out alternative mechanisms to check rampant unemployment and to enable Tanzanians secure jobs or employ themselves after completing school is thus timely.
The strategy must go beyond the traditional concept of job creation.
For many of the seekers, jobs are mainly in urban areas and mostly found in offices and factories. Of course we do not blame those who hold this concept, for that is how it has been inculcated in them in schools and most training institutions. The rural-urban migration also gives leverage to the notion that jobs for the educated are to be found in urban areas.
While it is true that these areas need workers, they are not the only openings to engage in income generating activity. We believe more could be done, if all the organisations touting empowerment programmes in the country came together and put together a more holistic and obviously resource-efficient strategy to enable more people engage in productive activity. Maybe the Labour and Employment ministry could spearhead the forum.