Skip to content
Key findings
  • Almost four in 10 young Ethiopians (38%) have secondary or post-secondary education, significantly surpassing older generations.
  • But youth (aged 18-35) are also more likely than their elders to be unemployed: 21% say they are not employed and are looking for jobs, compared to 8%-15% among older cohorts.
  • Management of the economy tops the list of the most important problems that Ethiopian youth want their government to address, followed by water supply, infrastructure/roads, electricity, and unemployment.
  • Fewer than half of young Ethiopians say the government is doing a good job of providing water (47%), maintaining roads and bridges (45%), providing electricity (39%), managing the economy (30%), and creating jobs (28%).
  • A majority (53%) of youth say the country is going in “the wrong direction,” while almost two-thirds (64%) describe the nation’s economic condition as bad and fewer than half (45%) expect things to improve over the coming year. But these assessments are somewhat more optimistic than those offered by older generations.
  • Despite their dissatisfaction with the country’s direction and the government’s performance, young citizens are less likely than their elders to engage in political and civic activities such as voting, attending community meetings, and joining others to raise an issue.

More than two-thirds of Ethiopians are under age 30 (Ethiopian Statistical Service, 2013), a powerful asset and resource for growth that has gone largely untapped. Historically, the relationship between successive Ethiopian governments and the youth has been “a combination of repression and co-optation” linking state resources and employment opportunities to youth associations affiliated with the ruling party (Kefale, Dejen, & Aalen, 2021).  

In 2004, Ethiopia introduced its first National Youth Policy, which defines youth as 15- to 29- year-olds and seeks to ensure that they have professional competencies, skills, and ethics to contribute to and benefit from the country’s development. Components of the policy emphasise youth participation in education and training, economic progress, and democracy and governance (Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, 2004). Measures designed to empower the youth include the Youth Revolving Fund, a multibillion-birr fund intended to help unemployed youth in urban and rural areas get jobs (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 2017).  

Despite such initiatives, the official rate of youth unemployment as of February 2021 stood at 12% in rural areas and 23% in cities, and migrants leaving the country in search of opportunities are predominantly the young aged 15-29 (Ethiopian Statistical Service, 2021).  Ethiopia remains a country where youth development is low, ranking 158th out of 181 countries on the Global Youth Development Index (Commonwealth, 2020).  

The Afrobarometer Round 9 survey (2023) offers some insights into the situation Ethiopian youth (defined here as ages 18-35). Findings show that young people are more educated than their elders but are also more likely to be unemployed. The economy is topmost on the minds of young Ethiopians, who think their government is doing a poor job on economic management and job creation. A majority of youth think their country is headed in “the wrong direction,” though they are somewhat more optimistic than older citizens that things will improve in the near future. 

Despite their dissatisfaction, young citizens are less likely than their elders to engage in political processes.

Anne Okello

Anne is the assistant project manager for East Africa

Mulu Teka

Mulu Teka is the national investigator for Ethiopia.