Ballots for Jobs: Leveraging Youth Voting Power

Rosevitha Ndumbu

As Namibia gears up for national elections in November, the nation finds itself at a crossroads where the employment aspirations of its youth intersect with the fundamental fabric of its democracy.

In the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections, young people made up more than 50% of registered voters, and that proportion is likely to be higher for the 2024 elections.

The youth vote can be the determining factor in these elections and political parties need to start addressing what matters most to the youth: Unemployment.


Namibia’s youth face major challenges in a constrained economy with high unemployment.

The most recent Labour Force Survey, released in 2018, revealed that unemployment among the country’s youth stood at an astounding 46,1%, which has undoubtedly risen since then.

Political leaders have repeatedly warned that the youth unemployment crisis could lead to social unrest, and the protest against joblessness by discontented youths on Independence Day in 2023, which turned violent, is a perfect example of this.

Afrobarometer’s 2021 national survey shows that unemployment is by far the most important problem young Namibians want their government to address: About 64% of the youth cite it among their top three concerns.

The status of the youth currently is that they are more educated compared to the older generation, but are still less likely to have a job.

About 79% of Namibia’s youth have secondary or post-secondary schooling, compared to 67% in the 36-55 age group. The number is even lower for those in the over-55 age group.

It is thus not surprising that elected leaders received relatively low approval ratings from the youth given their perceived failure to address this issue or that young Namibians are generally unimpressed with their government’s performance on their priority issues.

Only 16% of young survey respondents say the government is performing “well” on job creation.


Given this bleak picture, one would expect young people to be at the forefront of exercising their democratic right to vote to ensure they elect people they believe can adequately address their concerns.

However, young people are generally less likely to vote in elections and, unfortunately, this observation rings true for Namibia too.

Although young people may register to vote, registration and actual voting are two different processes.

Young people not only need to register to vote but actually have to show up at the polling stations.

According to the Afrobarometer survey, only 61% of young people say they voted in the last elections, compared to 79% of middle-aged and 81% of older citizens.

The gap between the youth and seniors who voted is 20 percentage points, more than enough to determine an election result.
Young people in Namibia are also less likely than the older generations to identify with a political party.

Less than half of young respondents say they “feel close” to a party compared to 63% of seniors.

The youth are also less likely to participate in other forms of political and civic activity such as attend a community meeting, contact a traditional leader or a regional councillor, political party official, or member of parliament


The pervasive problem of youth unemployment cannot be overstated. It is one that needs urgent interventions for continued national peace and stability.

At the same time, there’s an undeniable call for action for the youth to take full advantage of civic and political avenues to make their voices and priorities heard.

Looking ahead to the 2024 elections, concrete solutions to the youth unemployment crisis could be the winning formula for political parties and for Namibia’s youth.

By leveraging their collective voting power, the youth have the potential to steer political discourse towards policies that prioritise job creation, skills development, and sustainable growth.

May the youth decide at the polls whether the 2024 ballot is for jobs.

  • * Rosevitha Ndumbu is a research associate with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

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