Four radical solutions that will address youth unemployment in Kenya

Data from the FinAccess Household Survey, 2022 revealed that 28.5 percent of Kenyans are casually employed, with only nine percent holding permanent jobs. [iStockphoto]

At the start of the year, President William Ruto gave a four-hour media interview that was broadcast across the country in Kiswahili and English. One of the topics that caught my attention, and that of my friends who are university graduates is the issue of youth unemployment. “The biggest resource we have as a country is our human capital,” said Ruto.

Data from the FinAccess Household Survey, 2022 revealed that 28.5 percent of Kenyans are casually employed, with only nine percent holding permanent jobs. The rest, a majority being the youth, are unemployed.

As we all know, youth unemployment is not a new challenge in Kenya. Millions of young Kenyans, many of us university and college graduates wander the streets desperately looking for employment. Some have gone into entrepreneurship and others tried their luck outside Kenya doing manual jobs as a source of livelihood. 

It is time we address the matter head on. As a young person, I am proposing some radical ways we can address the problem of unemployment in Kenya.

  1. Don’t employ anyone over 45 years

The government should make it illegal to re-employ anyone who is older than 45 years. Employing old and already established professionals is very common in Kenya. The justification given is those over 45 have much more experience. However, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba argues that once a person is in their 50s, he or she should not be employing but instead hire young people to work for them. Using this argument, the government can justify the abolishment of re-employment of anyone above 45. This I believe will create many employment opportunities for graduates.

  1. Make internship mandatory

All organisations should offer internships to university and college graduates for a minimum of one year. This will provide an opportunity to graduates to apply what they learnt in school in the workplace and enable them to refine their skills. In turn, this will address the issue of graduates who are ‘half baked’ and help organisations create a pipeline of young talent they can employ.

  1. Rethink the ‘experience’ requirement

Graduates should not be required to have work experience. Many young people today, especially graduates do not qualify for interviews, or even get their applications accepted because of this requirement. How do you expect a graduate, fresh from school, to have any work experience enough to be considered for employment? As a matter of fact, work experience is simply an advertisement for candidates interested in changing employers. How about those who have never worked?

  1. Retirement age should be moved back to 55

In Kenya, the age of retirement is 60 for public officials and 65 for disabled persons. In 2009, the Public Service Commission reviewed the age from 55 to 60 for civil servants. This was to avoid losing employees with essential skills while they are still productive. In 2023, that needs to be reviewed because we have young employees who have the same skills that are useful in the age of technology.  By 55 those in employment should have identified someone younger to take over and create space for fresh ideas.

I believe these four solutions will address unemployment in Kenya and solve age diversity. Mixed-age work teams are effective in managing complex decision-making tasks as various perspectives are put on the table. It will be wise to proactively create employment opportunities for young people to boost human capital remittances, increase productivity and slay the beast of unemployment.

Tini Meshack is a graduate from Kenya Methodist University and a passionate writer. Email: [email protected]

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