Population count to inform policies, electoral units

Data from tonight’s census will reinforce the fears of a bulging youthful population unable to find employment in an ever-shrinking economy.

As this stark reality dawns, focus now shifts to how the government will use this data on current population trends to steer the country towards better times.

Current estimates from the 2019 United Nations World Population Prospects puts the country’s population at 52 million, with 60 per cent of these aged 25 years and below. In a country with a stagnated economy, things might get worse for the most productive age bracket.

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Estimates project that the country’s population will keep increasing over the next 10 years to hit 60 million people by 2030 and some 85 million people by 2050.

Despite assurances by the government on plans to harness the talents and abilities of this key population, little has been done, with youth-focused government agencies such as the Youth Fund and the National Youth Service being crippled due to mismanagement and corruption scandals before courts.

Youth unemployment contradicts government reports on steady creation of job opportunities from various public projects.

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Economic independence

Life expectancy is projected to increase from 54 years today to 68 years by 2050. It is also the projection that there will be a ‘youth bulge’ where the number of people aged between 15 and 24 make up at least 20 per cent of the country’s population.

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“In other contexts, this situation has proven to be a major asset for national economies, when these young people were able to find appropriately paying employment, or other ways of gaining personal economic independence,” reads a 2017 report by the British Council.

The World Bank's 2018 Kenya Social Protection and Job Programmes Public Expenditure Review says that if the country is to absorb unemployed youth, at least 900,000 jobs need to be created annually over the next seven years.

The report also indicated that youth unemployment was higher than the overall national unemployment rate. While the latter is around 10 per cent, it is an average of 35 per cent for youth. This means that in every 10 young people of working age, four are unemployed.

Grace Ocholla, a graduate of the University of Nairobi, says she has unsuccessfully applied for more than 300 jobs in the last one year.

“I am wondering how this census will make my life better. There is so much hopelessness. I am not interested in participating in something that does not promise to make my life better,” she says.

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The results are also expected to tilt the 2022 politics and inform realignments as leaders fight to control the numbers and money that will be allocated to counties based on boundary delimitation. 

The Commission on Revenue Allocation bases its revenue allocation formula on population. Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati has also indicated the census may result in the redrawing of boundaries.  

“The commission cannot increase the number of constituencies. We only re-align the boundaries of the constituencies and wards,” he said. 

Saturday Standard has learnt that some counties have mobilised resources to ferry people to their home counties for the exercise.

“You will expect that people will now be looking at the real numbers, which they will use for courting political alliances,” Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria said.

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Meanwhile, The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) has assured Kenyans that there will be no duplication of data in the exercise. 

KNBS Director General Zachary Mwangi clarified that the enumerators will only be taking data of the people who have spent the night at the household.

“Parents will be asked how many children they have, but they will also be asked where the children are. Only the ones who are within a household will have their details captured,” said Mr Mwangi.

KNBS also clarified that on fertility, they will not be checking on the ability to have babies, but rather how many live births a woman has had.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said they received reports that some politicians have been holding meetings to plan how to ferry people to their home counties for the census.

“I want to tell you that we are following up these activities and we are watching you. At an appropriate time, we shall ensure you meet with the law,” he said.

KNBS also clarified that there was no correlation between Huduma Namba registration and census.

"The census is instrumental in giving detailed information about migration patterns, disabilities and housing aspects, something Huduma Namba doesn't focus on," Mwangi said. 

There has been apathy towards the census as most people expressed doubt on whether the statistics will be put to good use. 

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