According to Trading Economics the rate of unemployment in Kenya has increased from 12.7% to 40%. These statistics are based on the people in the population actively searching for employment as a percentage of the labor force.
Despite the increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 5.6% in just 2015, the rate of unemployment is still quite high. On closer inspection of the numbers, the youth as defined by the African Youth Charter includes every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years.
In Kenya, few of the youth are absorbed into the formal sector while a majority get into the informal sector. Unfortunately for those who do not find something to occupy their time, the search continues as they hit the pavement in pursuit of better prospects.
Jobs in the formal sector are limited to the absorption capacity of a company or sector. On the other hand, the informal sector keeps growing, providing blue collar jobs for many of Kenya’s youth. The Jua Kali sector and Matatu industry are at the forefront of providing the youth with an alternative to formal employment.
However, though these two sectors do take a good percentage of the population, the remaining 40% still remain unoccupied. These informal sectors do bring in high returns for the economy.
In fact, the economy rose significantly when the informal sectors where included in GDP calculations. Though they do provide employment for many, these sectors are yet to be well structured and formalized to increase its capacity to provide more employment for the youth.
Products made by Jua Kali artisans have a limited market for people who can afford to buy these products. However, if there is a rise in employment, the middle class will increase the amount of disposal income available to buy products from the Jua Kali sector. So the domino effect is evident and influences every area of society. Unemployment not only
So the domino effect is evident and influences every area of society. Unemployment not only paralyzes the youth but could strangle the economy and the growth of this country.
Acknowledging the problem is one thing, however seeking solutions is another. When the Great Depression hit the United States of America in the 1930s the country went into a panic recording some of the lowest unemployment rates ever.
The U.S government deliberately chose to jumpstart the economy looking into expanding different sectors like the entertainment industry to cheer up the disheartened public. In Kenya, a high rate of unemployment has caused a surge in alcoholism in the urban and rural areas as the population chooses to bury their troubles in alcohol.
On their road to recovery, the United States government created employment by focusing on large projects that could occupy many. Reconstructing roads and improving the infrastructure of their nation enabled many to find employment.
The Roosevelt administration set up a youth program to provide education, vocational training and jobs to the youth while increasing military recruitment. To break free from poverty and the misery of joblessness, education and training is a great escape route the Kenyan government can provide.
To make any insight and remain competitive in the global stage, we must deal with the elephant in the room. There are many who have the capability to contribute to the economy but lack opportunities. The government should consider the rate of unemployment as a high priority as it is enshrined in our constitution as the right to live and to work.
If the nation is ever to realize Vision 2030, the high percentage of our populace being unemployed should take precedence until then, Vision 2030 is a misnomer.
By Cyrus Kamau