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Key findings
  • Unemployment and management of the economy are the most important problems that Zimbabwean youth (aged 18-35 years) want their government to address.
  • On average, Zimbabwean youth have more education than their elders. Nine in 10 young citizens (90%) have secondary or post-secondary schooling.
  • But youth are also more likely to be unemployed: About four in 10 young Zimbabweans (41%) say they are looking for a job, compared to 26% of middle-aged and 10% of older citizens.
  • Six in 10 young people (60%) describe their personal living conditions as “fairly bad” or “very bad.
  • Only about one in 10 young people give the government a passing grade on its efforts to create jobs (11%), while 22% approve of the government’s management of the economy (22%).
  • Fewer than four in 10 young respondents approve of the job performance of President Emmerson Mnangagwa (37%) and their member of Parliament (30%).
  • Young Zimbabweans are less likely than their elders to vote in elections, contact local leaders, attend community meetings, and join others to raise an issue.

In addition to hobbling economic development, youth unemployment is a global security threat that, if left unaddressed, can result in social unrest, higher levels of crime, and susceptibility to extremist groups (Obonyo, 2021). In Zimbabwe, an ailing economy has made the situation particularly critical for young people. The
official youth unemployment rate (defined as the percentage of the labour force aged 15-24 actively seeking employment) is 12.37% (Statista, 2023), though activists say this grossly underrepresents the number of young Zimbabweans who need jobs (Moyo, 2023).

While more than 60% of the country’s population is under age 25, youth continue to face significant obstacles to realising their economic and political potential (Oyewale, 2023; UNICEF Zimbabwe, 2021; Pswarayi, 2023). The quest to address the needs of the youth is captured in the vision of Zimbabwe’s revised National Youth Policy (2020-2025), which aims to achieve holistic youth development through a focus on education and skills development, employment and entrepreneurship, youth governance and participation, and health and well-being (Government of Zimbabwe, 2021).

The latest Afrobarometer survey provides an on-the-ground look at the situation of youth in the country. Findings show that Zimbabwean youth (defined here as aged 18-35) have more education than their elders but are also more likely to be unemployed. Unemployment and management of the economy top the list of the most important problems that young Zimbabweans want their government to address.

Fewer than half of the youth demographic approve of the way the president, members of Parliament, and local government councillors have performed their jobs. Though dominant in numbers, Zimbabwe’s youth are less likely than their elders to participate in change-making activities such as voting and civic activities.

Simangele Moyo-Nyede

Simangele is a research officer Mass Public Opinion Institute

Asafika Mpako

Asafika is the communications coordinator for Southern Africa