Rethinking Ethiopia’s demographics

Managing population growth and investing in youth key to sustained growth, new study finds
Ethiopian needs to continue to implement a board policy framework that prioritizes economic growth, education and health including family planning to benefit from its demographic dividend, according to a new study presented at the African Population Conference held in Pretoria, South Africa.
The study, presented in light of ‘Demographic Dividend in Africa: Prospects, Opportunities and Challenges’, the theme of the conference, recognized developments in the country, and stated that managing population growth is key to reap benefits from the growing economy.
Despite the government’s work to expand health and education facilities in recent years, there are no clear policies in place in terms of population growth.“To achieve the demographic dividend, the country should focus on that population growth rate,” experts stated.
The study, ‘The Demographic Dividend: an Opportunity for Ethiopia’s Transformation’ undertaken by the Ethiopian Economists Association (EEA) and Population Reference Bureau (PRB) stated that a demographic dividend in Ethiopia would contribute to the long-term economic and social development of the country. “But a demographic dividend hinges on job growth: Ethiopia’s economy must be able to absorb the large number of people reaching working age over the next several decades,” according to the report.
As mortality and fertility levels decline, Ethiopia’s working age population may grow in relation to the number of young dependents. Appropriate economic policies that promote growth will contribute significantly towards a job market that can absorb a large workforce and give them productive employment.
Therefore, the country may enter a demographic window of opportunity, enabling Ethiopia to capture a demographic dividend, accelerated economic growth that may result from the demographic transformations and the shift in the age structure of the population.
Policies that provide incentive to invest and save, that encourage trade and a flexible strategy for producing a well-trained workforce, will yield a stronger economy with greater employment and earning opportunities, according to the study. Investments in basic infrastructure such as roads, transportation, and communication systems will create a supportive environment for Ethiopia to capitalize fully on its demographic changes.
Assefa Admassie (PhD), economist and researcher at EEA, presenting the findings at the conference told Capital that the study focused on how the country will use the youth for the country’s growth and transformation.
The economist said that the country has to invest on the young generation. He recognized that the Ethiopia is registering growth in terms of health, education and other economic sectors. “These positive achievements have to be accelerated and need more focus on girls’ access to education and health,” Assefa added.
Ethiopia is a young country, with 45 percent of the population under age 15 and 71 percent under age 30. Even with strong reductions in fertility, Ethiopia’s population of nearly 90 million is projected to exceed 127 million by 2037.
The study also emphasized the private sector had the greatest potential to create jobs and needed a boost to achieve.
“The private sector need more space the play a big role in economic growth,” Assefa said. The report to come out of the study stated that Ethiopia’s large population of youth is an opportunity for economic growth if an adequate number of stable jobs are created.
The youth unemployment rate is currently 7 percent with 25 percent of youth aged 15 to 29 report underemployment. Unemployment is largely an urban phenomenon in Ethiopia, with levels as high as 29 percent. “Investments in economic growth, job creation, and technical training will ensure adequate employment opportunities for young people entering the job market,” the document recommended.
The study also stated that better income distribution and employment opportunities will help the nation maximize the promises of its proportionately large working age population. Policies that aim at harnessing the youth population by investing in quality education, skills development, and improved health outcomes will help Ethiopia capture the potential benefits of demographic changes.