Africa creates 15m jobs but working poor grow

Monday January 15 2024

Workers at a warehouse in Shimanzi in Mombasa County, Kenya. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG


Some 15 million Africans got jobs last year, a new International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) report shows.

Yet 148 million African workers were taking home less than $2.15 per day, reflecting an increasingly poor working environment on the continent.

ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook 2024 report shows that while 15.8 million more Africans secured employment last year, 3.5 million -- or 22 percent of them -- were earning less money per day than the global average hourly pay.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, such workers, categorised as extremely working poor people, constituted 32.8 percent of all those currently employed, more than four times the global average of 6.9 percent, highlighting a stark difference between the working conditions globally.

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Globally, the report shows that the number of extremely working poor people increased by only one million, from 240.1 million in 2022, an indication that the number dropped in other regions around the globe as it rose in Africa.


Europe and North America, for instance, had no workers earning less than $2.15 a day, while only 5.3 percent of employees in the Pacific and 2.2 percent in South-East Asia fell in that category.

This highlights a growing inequality in incomes and labour markets, which, ILO says, “bodes ill for aggregate demand and a more sustained economic recovery,” in the post-pandemic world.

“It is starting to look as if these imbalances are not simply part of pandemic recovery but structural,” said ILO’s director-general Gilbert Houngbo.

Unemployment rate also improved for the better globally, but in Africa, the vast majority of employees remained in the informal sector even as more workers entered formal employment across the globe.

In 2023, 86.5 percent of all those in employment in Africa were working in the informal sector, while globally, only 58 percent were informally employed. At the same time, Africans in self-employment increased by over 13 million to 360 million in 2023.

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According to ILO, the difficult labour market in Africa, which is increasingly being flooded due to the growing working-age population, continues to disillusion the youth and forcing them to quit active search for employment.

“In a context of growing working-age population, young people are particularly at risk of disillusionment and labour market detachment as a result of being unable to secure decent and productive work on entry into the labour market,” ILO said in the report.

Based on the ILO statistics, at least 63 million young Africans, aged between 14 and 24, were out of employment, education, or training last year, representing about 22.2 percent of the youth population in Africa.