Pia Peeters the author of Improving Opportunities for Sustainable Youth Employment in Sierra Leone has in a report documented by the World Bank disclosed yesterday at the Cabenda Hotel in Freetown that the overall health of the population, including sexual and reproductive health remains poor.
According to the World Bank report, infant, child and maternal mortality rates in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world.
The report noted that teenage pregnancy levels are elevated (178 per 1000), and sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates are high among youth, at 24% among 20 to 24 years old and 28% for 25 to 29 years old.
On the education level the author pointed out that the average education levels for youth are low, with 35% of 15-24 year old never attending school and 63 % of the 25-35 years old in the same situation.
For both groups the report states only 20% finished primary school. While literacy rates for youth are higher than adults, they remain very low at 53% for adolescents, 40% for youth and 29% for young adults.
Education levels for female youth are significantly lower than for male youth, while education levels for children tend to be more equal the reports declared.
The author who said the study in the report was done in all the districts disclosed that the 20-24 year old is the transition age for young men and that they leave school in their mid to teens and either move directly to unpaid labor or spend a spell in inactivity in the labor market or unemployment at age 20-24.
Peeters intimated that those who are inactive in the labor market or unemployed may spend long periods in that state, but they are a minority of the population.
She accentuated that men graduate from unpaid labor to self-employment sector by age 25-35, and a small share graduate in to wage employment.
Peeters said that women, in particular, leave school early to start families and contribute to new household duties, and there is strong gender discrimination in the formal wage jobs.
She acclaimed that the labor market demands many policy and program options designed to promote youth employment and skill development programs suffer from a mismatch between skills these programs develop and the demands of the labor market.
To address these issues the author recommends continuous investment to improve business climate, infrastructure, and access to electricity. She also recommended that increased access to credit and support for self employment and entrepreneurship, along with addressing constraints for youths outside of the labor market while also redefining the concept of youth.
Christopher Juan Costain acting country manager World Bank said that this is the first study done by the bank in the country. He added that this report will help them greatly in the implementation of their operations.
The acting country manager pointed out that creating job opportunities for large and growing number of young people is a priority for the government of Sierra Leone.
He added that promoting employment opportunities for youth is identified in the Sierra Leone Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (SLPRSP) as one of the country’s main development challenges and as crucial for maintaining peace and promoting pro poor growth.
Costain stated that the study aims to inform the Sierra Leone government, stakeholders including donor communities of the main issues and challenges that today’s youth are facing in relation to labor market.