Youth on the margins: in search of decent work in northern Uganda

Richard Mallett, Teddy Atim and Jimmy Opio

Type: Research Reports, Uganda

Organisation: Feinstein International Center

Date: 19/12/2016

Full summary

Just because someone is working, it does not automatically mean they are doing well. More than one-thirds of all Ugandans are classified as ‘working poor’, and that share is concentrated disproportionately among young people. Bad work – forms of labour that are precarious, underpaid and exploitative – are common.


Through a case study in Uganda’s second largest town, Lira, the research sets out to examine what the dynamics of young people’s work look like. it does so through a small-scale survey and in-depth interviews with several hundred young people. Of the young people surveyed, around half fall below the Ugandan national poverty line.


The research shows that several themes recur in the working lives of young people: low and irregular pay, insecure terms, transient, socially undesirable. Working for someone else can expose young people to arrange of exploitations, from the economic to the physical to the sexual.


What also characterises life in these low-return corners of the labour markets is the degree to which young people appear to be stuck there. Not only are there not many viable alternatives, adverse incorporation, where individuals who are not faring well in the workplace are somehow prevented from moving onwards (and upwards), is also rife.