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Volume 4: Economic Characteristics of the Somali People

Data on economic activities is crucial for the measurement of the role of the population of a country in economic and social development. It provides estimates on the relationship between employment, unemployment and other social and economic characteristics of the population for purposes of formulating and monitoring employment policies and programmes, social schemes, education and other programs. Whereas the working age population comprises all persons in the age group 15-64, PESS sought to get information on the economic status of all persons age 10 and above. Respondents were asked two questions pertaining to their contribution to the economy: (i) engagement in an economic activity and (ii) type of occupation for those who are employed. The information collected through the PESS 2014 tells an important part of the story how Somali society has changed.
The Somalis have one of the highest Age Dependency Ratios in Eastern Africa, resulting from the large number of children in the population, caused by the high level of fertility over a long period. This puts a demographic burden on the working age population in terms of increased pressure on families, education and health services. On the other hand, it creates conditions for a demographic dividend if enough employment opportunities are created for the growing number of young adults and women on the labour market. Fifty two percent of the population is of working age (15-64) of which more than half are now living in urban areas and as IDPs, usually in proximity to urban areas. Regions in unsafe areas of the South Central have lower proportions of working age population compared to the economically dynamic areas (particularly in the North).
Almost 50 percent of the population of working age are economically inactive. Mostly they are full time housewives or students in the younger ages. Among the economically active, over 12 percent are unemployed and searching for work according to the PESS data. This means that only close to 40 percent of the Somali population of working age are productively employed. In rural areas and among the nomadic population, the activity rates of men and of women are much higher than in urban areas. Nomads in particular live a demanding live where most household members of working age are involved in economic activities. Working life starts early and does often not stop in old age. PESS 2014 data show that the work of children 10-14 and young people 15-24 is important for the economy of the Somali’s. Starting from age 15, the labour force participation of men raises to over 80 percent around age 30, while the gender gap increases and the labour force participation of women reaches on slightly more than 40 percent.
The data on occupation show that children and young people work in their big majority in livestock herding and agriculture. With increasing age, more Somalis work also in services and sales as well as in better qualified professional and technical occupations. Overall, 60 percent of the working population has jobs in agriculture, livestock and other activities related to the primary sector. Women are more frequently employed in jobs related to the primary sector than men. Two thirds of those working in jobs related to the primary sector have no completed education, while almost 90 percent of managers and professionals have completed at least secondary education and over 50 percent have completed tertiary education. Between 80 to 90 percent of all managers, professionals and clerical support workers and over 65 percent of all sales, services, crafts and factory workers live in urban areas. On the other hand, 70 percent of Somalis occupied in agriculture and livestock live in nomadic areas, 27 percent in rural areas. This illustrates a very strong territorial segregation of economic activities according to types of residence.