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Youth aspirations, perceptions of farming, and migration decisions

Essa Chanie Mussa
Youth jobs, skills and entrepreneurship

The study discusses the aspirations, life goals, and preferences of youth in rural sub-Saharan Africa using large scale SMS-based survey, and further investigates the causal effects of adolescent aspirations on migration decisions when youth in southwestern Ethiopia. The cross-country youth study shows that most rural youth in Africa would like to work in non-farm economic sectors. It also finds that above half of the rural youth are undecided about their migration aspirations, providing an opportunity for governments to influence the rural out-migration of youth. However, policymakers should be also aware that anti-poverty policy measures that simply improve the income of youth might have unpredictable and unintended consequences on the migration of rural youth. As a result, policy measures may have to also influence the perceptions of youth toward farming and rural non-farm sectors, and make rural areas more attractive to the youth. Taking southwestern Ethiopia as a case in point, the findings show that educational and occupational aspirations during adolescent exert differing effects on migration decisions at least after four to five years. That is, while those who aspired to attain more years of schooling are unlikely to out-migrate, their counterparts who aspired to have high-skilled occupations tend to out-migrate to cities four to five years later. The study concludes that out-migration of youth from rural areas and small towns may not be only due to push factors such as lack of farm land, but it could also be due to their aspirations to work in high-skilled jobs which are not often found in the origin rural areas. Thus, African countries should work to make rural areas and farming more attractive to the aspiring youth such as through improving access to technology to keep those who aspire to work in high-skilled non-farm jobs through developing infrastructure and providing support to rural non-farm sectors.