Number of Unemployed Kenyans have increased by 600,000 since 2013

Take a guess, what do you think is the place of Kenya in the list of countries ranked by unemployment rates? You guessed wrong, Kenya is in position 6 from the bottom. The worst country, which has an unemployment rate of 95%, is Zimbabwe. Following a distant second is Djibouti with 60% unemployment rate, then American Samoa takes the third place with 49.9%. Senegal and Nepal take the fourth and fifth places respectively. According to the Wikipedia list, Unemployment rate in Kenya stood at 42% in 2009. Today, although unemployment rate has come down to 39.1%, the number of unemployed Kenyans has increased by 600,000 persons since 2013.

The unemployment rate in Kenya improved slightly from 2009 to 2011 where, according to Trading Economics, Kenya reported unemployment rate of 40% in 2011, a figure that has stood its ground to date – the fact that was reaffirmed by UNDP on its report on Unemployment rate in East Africa.

The report by UNDP indicates that Kenya, which has a population of about 46 million people, with majority being the youth aged between 15 and 35 years, has a 39.1% unemployment rate  in 2017. This figure indicates that out every 10 Kenyans who ought to be in a gainful employment, only 6 of them are employed, with the rest either busy looking for jobs,have given up, or possibly planning on how and when to rob a neighbor.

In population figures, since unemployment is calculated as unemployment persons/labour force, and that the labour force in Kenya currently stands at about 17 million people (both in formal and informal sectors), the number of unemployed persons is at about 6.6 million people. At the beginning of 2013 when Jubilee took office, the number of unemployed Kenyans stood at about 6 million people. What this means is that despite the government having worked so hard to create about 2 million jobs in the four years of Jubilee governance, there has been a net increase of unemployed persons by a whooping 600,000.

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Kenya being the biggest economy in East Africa ought to have provided better statistics on the rate of unemployment in the region. However, the next worse performer in the unemployment sector is Tanzania with unemployment rate of 24%. Despite being inferior to Kenya economically, the youth in Tanzania tend to find it easier gaining meaningful things to do with their lives.

The rest of East African countries namely Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda fair pretty well at 21.6%, 18.1% and 17.1% respectively. The rate of Unemployment in the East African countries other than Kenya may seem positive, but the figures are way above the acceptable limits of 4 to 6.4% unemployment rates. Even compared to the global average of 5.7% unemployment rate in 2016 as reported by World Bank, the East African countries are still performing way way below expectations.

As much as the facts of Unemployed Kenyans are obvious and clear, not everyone buys to the UNDP report. Business Daily for example ran the press release on the report and so far has attracted three comments on its website. One commenter had this to say:

Gloom and doom reports from the World Bank and UN agencies in an election year leaves a lot to be desired….Seems like development agencies don’t like to see developing countries like Kenya invest in mega infrastructure projects like the SGR, Lamu Port which have a major economic impact in the long term

On how the Mega infrastructure developments have helped create jobs in Kenya, a second commenter explained:

I know the reasons behind unemployment especially Kenyan youths.We have a notion that we have to get specific jobs so as to be recognized as employed.many people with degrees are awaiting for formal jobs only and if not working in someone’s office feel bad about it.If you read keenly , you will note that close to 800,000 jobs were created, but only 85,000 were formal.What does that mean ; yes..Jobs will be created but not what you expected.Projects like the SGR created jobs, but most of them were informal.The NYS is away of job creation, but most are informal.The port, road construction, agriculture etc name them ;all are informal.Kenyan Youths its time you woke up.Create your own jobs,create groups that empower you and get loans from government institutions and NGOs.Unfortunately , only 1% of the Youths will read this

The second comment seems to suggest that the unemployed Kenyans failed to look for jobs at the right places; that instead of working their ass-off walking up and down the offices of white and blue collar jobs in downtown Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret,Machakos, Meru and Nyeri, they ought to have lined up to be taken up by SGR builders as wheelbarrow pullers and pushers. The question that such an individual ought to be asked is this, “was there shortage of  labour in SGR or in any other mega project happening in Kenya?” If no, how sure is anyone that when the unemployed Kenyans went to look for jobs in these mega projects sites, they could have gotten the much needed employment over there?

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Just like in any other sector, the labor market also works within the principles of demand and supply – and currently what’s obvious is that there is oversupply of labour in the Kenyan market, both in formal and informal sector, and unless the economy expands to allow for rapid absorption of the excess labour, the unemployed Kenyans as a time bomb is still waiting to explode.

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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