OPINION: Unemployment in Kenya; A Socio-Economic menace hitting unprecedented levels

Unemployment in Kenya is a challenge that is certainly crippling the country’s economic progress as well as the people’s welfare. Being a subject that has often taken prominence in the political class’ discourse without necessarily bearing any political goodwill.

While the government seems to be making some effort to this end through projects and endeavors that often end in futility, what the future holds if this trend persists should call for a departure from the unending rhetoric to safeguard our growing youthful generation and the economy.

Seeking to realize Sustainable Development Goal number eight, Decent Work and Economic Growth, by 2030, United Nations Development Programme notes that employment is core to achieving this goal. Employment has other benefits to a country, especially one with a high population.

Resources can be easily mobilized to create more wealth and a highly stable economy; poverty is alleviated for individuals are able to generate their own wealth for their own use and there is social harmony that results with a high satisfaction rate of the citizens.

While employment can be thought of a position of an individual holding a job through which the individual is able to receive wages, unemployment is when the individuals who desire to work are not able to find jobs. Actually, it can be said that employment is that state of person doing what he wants to do under circumstances therein.

In an economic development perspective, the youths are the main drivers. The speedy growth of economies in East Asia, termed as The East Asian Miracle, is greatly attributed to the high snowballing of the human labour which consisted mainly the youths. Economists articulated that the youthful human labour was actually one of the main engines of the Miracle.

The United Nations in 2017 identified that the over three quarters of the Kenyan population, is of ages between 0-35. The working population which comprises of the population in the ages between 25 and 64 comprise 58.9 percent of the population. Yet the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, in 2017 concluded that the youths were three times more likely to remain unemployed than the adults.

This is undoubtedly the reason as to why we ought not to treat the subject of unemployment lightly, rather have leaders from all major facets exerting more earnest efforts to revamp the hopes of our young people desperately seeking to create a future for themselves.

We have less than partial empowerment to our youth to foster growth of ambition and skills that they possess. If we would use facts to typify the African youth, while 37% of the work-age population is comprised of the youth, 60% of them are unemployed.

As one of the leading economies in the continent in many economic facets including a good ranking in the ease of doing business, Kenya ought to have gained some tract in managing youth unemployment. Nevertheless, that has not been the reality.

According to the World Bank report mid this year, unemployment levels increased to 9.31% by December 2018 from 9.29% recorded in December 2017. According to the Kenya Economic Survey 2019, while nine million individuals are expected to join the labor force between 2015 and 2025, 840,600 jobs were created in 2018. This was a reduction from 909,800 jobs created in 2017.

A downward trend of this sort denotes an expected worsening of this menace. In light of this, the Kenya Social Protection and Job Programme Public Expenditure Review this year, indicated that the country’s pace of job creation is not tandem with the number of new job entrants.

Places such as Kibera in Nairobi seem to have partially received the benefits of the little efforts made to restore an active working class it still way far from achieving its targeted levels. Demographically, 50% of the available workforce is employed in fairly unskilled jobs.

Training and skills are undoubtedly vital skills that the constituency needs. Any retraction or slowdown in the projects already running due to perhaps poor leadership would deter employment growth efforts. It is the main reason why having a visionary leader to streamline and harness the efforts to leverage the capacity of the youths in the area to create jobs and improve their livelihoods.

As such, boosting and bringing into action some of the main policy ideas such as the creation of funds to support the youth with projects and promises encompassed in political manifestos deserve a keener review.

The policy makers are also to be asked to provide a conducive climate in terms of political and investment climate. This would motivate investors to make long term commitments which would be independent of regime change. This would spur economic growth and development and employment opportunities will be increased to match the demanding business market call.

The focus of the investments is towards creating and improving infrastructure and improving the human skill base. There should also be prompt action towards abuse of power or office and probity be encouraged by rewarding.

Emphasis to shift from large enterprises to micro, small and medium sized enterprises to propel self-employment creation especially amongst the youths who greatly determine the magnitude of economic growth and development within them.

The cost of starting such enterprises should be friendly and affordable to all who seek to create self-employment opportunities. Large enterprises including foreign investments to lead the way in setting good business values and ethics that the local and single entrepreneurs may follow through.

With concerted efforts, it is clear that we can manage the situation of unemployment and forge a sense of purpose in our youth, spurring them to create their future and that of our country. However, it has a lot to do with the leadership and the political will to see the change that the country deserves.

The writer is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist. dboi@iasr.co.ke

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