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GSSC Seminar Series
14 March 2023


Social Protection, Inequality, and Youth Unemployment in Namibia – Infringement of the Social Contract?

Ndeshi Namupala (University of Basel)



Namibia is a country that is confronted with a higher level of inequality, aggravated by higher unemployment rates and poverty among its population. Exacerbating the problem are the twin shocks of the covid-19 pandemic and the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war, which contributed to persistent consumer inflation in the country. This made it difficult for already struggling Namibians to afford the very basics that sustain life. The consequences have been particularly substantial on young people, specifically women thus reflecting significant pre-existing inequalities. With poor access to or the lack of productive assets such as capital, land, and skills, the majority of unemployed youth struggle daily to meet their basic needs and are often on the periphery of Namibian society. They find refuge in the informal sector and economy, often without access to social security and social assistance. Their survival initiatives and subsistence efforts are met with discontent from government institutions and other authorities. Recently there have been several demonstrations related to the exploitation of workers, some of which led to the arrest of protesting youths. The government and other regulatory institutions, including unions, have remained silent. Young people’s access to social protection in the country remains considerably constrained.  In addition, the opaqueness of social protection policies in Namibia interacts with social inequalities. Tentatively, and relying on a descriptive phenomenological approach, the above are the presenter’s observations. Against this backdrop, the presentation aims at interrogating these issues, pondering whether there is an infringement of the social contract in the country. It will also touch on the new social protection policy gap that has excluded the most unemployed cohort – the youths, questioning the allusion to President Geingob’s call for an “inclusive Namibian house”. The presentation further draws on secondary, online resources and the presenter’s ongoing Ph.D. research on the world of work and social protection in Namibia.

Ndeshi Namupala is a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Namibia. She is also currently busy with her doctoral degree at the University of Basel, titled “Social Protection, Rural Livelihoods, and Labour market: The case of cash transfers in Zambezi Region. Her other research interests include Inequality, Gender, Youth, and dynamics of social structures in Namibia.