Every morning, on the way to work I would always walk through a quiet street in my neighbourhood. There is a narrow ditch along the side of this street just beside the drainage. Day after day, I can’t help but to notice that many young Kenyan ladies always sit by this street inside the ditch waiting. I ultimately discovered that they were in fact waiting for that lucky day when a potential house-keeping job becomes available as the regular house-keepers was absent from work.
In the last few weeks at work, we were hiring for a number of sales agents in distributing a micro-insurance product to the market. As the advertisement went out, we received many applications. To my surprise, almost all the applicants had completed qualification of higher tertiary education. Some were pharmacist, others had obtained an economics degree. Not only were they able to start work immediately, it was also noticeable that the majority of them had never had prior formal work employment experience.
Indeed, a recent World Bank report reveals that although Kenya is East Africa’s largest economy, has the greatest number of unemployed youth in the region. 80% of unemployed Kenyans are below 35 years old. Furthermore, almost one in every five Kenyan youths of working age has no job. Such rate of unemployment –stands at three times that of the neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania – is amongst the highest in the world.
Mass joblessness, especially among youth population, is a drag on the economy because it forces unemployed adults to depend on the small working-class, stretches family resources and consumes savings of future investments. Economists says that youth unemployment is primarily a problem of labour demand. The Kenyan economy is not creating sufficient jobs to cater for the increasing number of young labour market entrants. The youth unemployment crisis is therefore primarily a challenge of economic growth and job creation in Kenya. Additionally, the problem is further compounded by the fact that Kenya’s ability to create new jobs is lagging behind population growth.
The government has undertaken many initiatives to address the youth unemployment challenges through providing various training programs as well as releasing massive funds to support youth entrepreneurship. Yet being jobless, continues to underline the harsh economic reality which Kenyan youths are facing today.
As John D Rockefeller says “I believe in the dignity of labour, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.”I certainly hope that the new Kenyan generation can overcome this employment crisis and that one day there will be no young ladies waiting dreadfully for house work on the quiet street next door.