By Philip Etale
NAIROBI, KENYA: Ever asked why there is too much hopelessness among the youth? Ever thought of how many bad dreams a young man harbors when he stays at home doing nothing for over five years after graduating from the University or any other tertiary college?
These and many others are some of the questions that a lot of people keep asking themselves when the rate of unemployment among the youth keeps growing more than the country’s economy does.
In Kenya for instance, the unemployment rate has increased to 40 per cent in the last two years from 12 per cent in 2006. This can be translated to mean that close to 16 million Kenyans have no formal employment. This is a very alarming trend, which can be disastrous if left to continue growing.
However, 70 per cent of the employed lot are under paid hence unable to take care of day-to-day needs. Most of those who fall in the category of the 60 per cent are either employed in the informal sector or the private sector.
In Nairobi, a young man waking up at 4:30am everyday to walk to Industrial Area from Kibera or Gitaro Marigo slum in Dandora and works from 8am to 5pm is paid between Sh300 and Sh500 a day. This is inclusive of lunch, which for a hard labourer is a must. Therefore, the average total earning for this individual is Sh15,000 a month.
From the Sh15,000, this man has a family (three school going children), needs to pay rent, buy food for the family and clothing too. Basically, this man is left with nothing to spend on himself, but life has to go on.
When I listen to the ongoing debate about the wage bill and whether or not salaries for legislators should be increased, I wonder why people would rather spend more energy on non-issues at the expense of the suffering youth. Unemployment among the youth is a time bomb for this country. When three to four of them meet and sit together, they don’t discuss how to get jobs, but they discuss how frustrated they are for ‘hustling’ without success. Therefore, the end result will be a revolt, and this will lead to the worst.
As a nation, instead of leaders spending a lot of time arguing over their salaries, they should be focusing on how to come up with ways of improving the country’s economy and boost the per capita income.
It is a fact that when a country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) is booming, then the lifestyles of her people also flourish. There will be good salaries for everyone, the country will grow in terms of Infrastructure, agriculturally and the rate unemployment will reduce every year.
Kenya has a potential of growing her economy and match some of the fast growing third world countries. Latest reports from Singapore could be good news to upcoming economies. It is said that after a meager growth in the last quarter of 2012, Singapore recovery may be still out of reach. In the first quarter of 2013, the economy contracted 0.6 per cent year-on-year and 1.4 per cent quarter-on-quarter, as exports and industrial production data were disappointing.
Kenya has for years been learning from Singaporian success in terms of economic growth. In the 1960s, the two countries were at per, but Singapore got it right and fast shot up to join the world’s best.
To improve the economy and steer it to a double-digit growth, Kenya needs to deal with the high rate of corruption in all sectors. It is discouraging when the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics reports that the inflation rate in Kenya was recorded at 4.11 per cent in March while the Central Bank of Kenya reports that the country recorded a Current Account deficit of 11.50 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product last year and a Government Debt to GDP of 46.50 per cent of the country’s GDP in the same year.
To curb unemployment, the Government needs to come up with policies that would lead to an improved economy. All players in every sector of the economy should join hands to support any initiative that would lead to achieving this goal. Political goodwill is paramount in attaining this.
Therefore, the Government will be required to work with all the political players, particularly the official opposition in order to ensure it succeeds.