There is hell lot of people on the tarmac, university, college, currently looking for a job. If you are one of them, you may need to rethink of your strategy. The economy is not creating enough jobs annually. There are high chances you may be looking for a job for the next five years and more. It is now ten times more difficult to find a job in Kenya than it was 10 years ago.
I have seen a lot of policy makers and politicians talk on doing something about the employment situation as a top policy priority. In fact the Jubilee Government came into office with the promise to create more opportunities for the youth and the country at large. But there is very little that has practically been done about the situation. There’s a pervasive sense across government that nothing more can or should be done, that we should just wait for the economy to grow to trickle down to workers.
The truth of the matter is, when the economy is on the growth trajectory, very few jobs are created. The economy has to stabilize for the opportunities to begin to trickle down to the citizens.
With the projections for economic growth by Government, it will take years before unemployment declines to normal levels. And all indications and activities around the various national scale infrastructure projects show that those projects will need to be completed for actual jobs to trickle down to the citizens.
According to the Kenya Beureau of Statistics, Unemployment Rate in Kenya increased to 40% in 2011 from 12.70% in 2006. In Kenya, the unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force.
80% of the unemployed Kenyans are below 35 years old. the challenge of youth unemployment is compounded by the fact that 90% of all employed people lack vocational skills. Approximately 800,000 young Kenyans enter the labour market every year. The current youth unemployment rate stands at 35%.
GDP Annual Growth Rate in Kenya is expected to be 5.70% according to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts’ expectations. The estimates show the GDP Annual Growth Rate in Kenya to stand at 6.41 in 12 months’ time. The inflationary effects and the continued infrastructure development as well as low tax returns, things don’t look as rosy as projected.
The damage from sustained high unemployment will last much longer. The longer our graduates remain unemployed, they tend to lose their skills, and even when the economy finally stabilises in growth, there will still be difficulties in finding a job, because they’re regarded as poor risks by potential employers.
On the other hand, students who graduate into a poor labor market start their careers at a huge disadvantage and pay a price in lower earnings for their whole working lives. Failure to act on unemployment isn’t just cruel, it’s short-sighted.
Then there is the group of Kenyans who after graduating and searching for jobs with little success, take up any offer irrespective of their area of specialization. These type of people end up frustration leading to poor productivity at the job place.
Can the Kenyan Government consider creating an emergency jobs program?
I remember in the 2009 Obama stimulus bill focused on restoring economic growth. It was, in effect, based on the belief that if you build G.D.P., the jobs will come. But if that could be the same route, the current infrastructure development needs to be humongous enough such that at the completion, it could absorb millions of the unemployed.
During the campaigns the Jubilee Administration promised to create tax incentives to companies that take up young people to offer job training, internships and mentorship opportunities. This policy has never been implemented. It also promised to collapse the existing Funds targeting the youth and the Kenya Industrial Estates into one agency. The proposals seems to have hit a snag.
We urgently need a somewhat cheaper program that generates more jobs for the unemployed population. Such a program should at best lead directly to job creation. An intensive programme that helps or incubates innovators to start ideas that when implemented will generate more jobs for millions at scale.
With the Counties now at the centre of development, a lot more could be done that is not being done. We need to see the counties announcing measures to create more opportunities for their people at local level thus achieving economic growth at local level.
Every time Government thinks of creating jobs for the youth, they always run towards low paying, hard labour kinds of National Youth Service initiatives and the long gone Kazi Kwa Vijana Initiative that ended up enriching the old guards. It’s time a programme that would offer relatively low-paying (but much better than nothing) public-service employment.
Direct public employment can create a lot of jobs at relatively low cost. The Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank in the United States, argued that spending $40 billion a year for three years on public-service employment would create a million jobs.
If businesses were offered structured direct incentives for employment, there would be more jobs being created. Employers should be encouraged to add workers as the economy expands. Companies should be encouraged to design sustainable growth plans that takes more employees over time thus expanding into new horizons. A tax credit for employers who increase their payrolls is a worthy policy that will lead to the creation of jobs.
The expense that may come with providing tax subsidies to companies and organizations, far more outweighs the value of having more citizens productively engaged. There is currently a much higher cost of inaction in the face of a social and economic crisis the country may plunge herself in.
While the Government needs to get serious on creating an enabling environment for private institutions to create more jobs, the young people also need to begin to use their school acquired knowledge to innovate and resolve our current social problems. Of course that requires investments and revenue in research and innovative ideas. It is that creativity that has lacked in our country. Majority of university graduates today are more of job seekers. Is it because our education is more of a theory and not a practice oriented. Something has to be done about that too.
We can no longer maintain status quo, it will come at a high price. Things not need remain as they are. I believe we can create more jobs — and yes, we MUST.