Why Kenya's poor youth are unlikely to get decent jobs

A young man hawks flower baskets at Kakamega town. New report by UNDP says a fifth of those entering the job market are unemployable. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]
At least 200,000 Kenyans joining the labour market are unemployable, according to new findings that compound the high joblessness levels.

Among the reasons is that the affected group fell victim to the widening inequalities which have skewed access to education and healthcare.

A million people enter the labour market every year on attaining the age of 15 but the economy is hardly creating 100,000 positions, hence the fierce competition for fill the available slots.

The findings are contained in a Human Development Report unveiled yesterday by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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The report also noted that while improved education and healthcare have helped raise the quality of living, there are newer challenges that are likely to propagate inequality.

One such factor is the distorted access to internet among various households, which ensures children from poorer backgrounds are left behind.

Privileged families are able to provide the better education, healthcare and resources including internet to enable them stay ahead in finding employment.

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"Children from poor families may not be able to afford an education and are at a disadvantage when they try to find work,” said UNDP Resident Representative Walid Badawi.

"These children are likely to earn less than those in higher income families when they enter the labour market, when penalised by compounding layers of disadvantage.”

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Thus, the poor are bound to get poorer because different factors are stacked against them.

Mr Badawi added that while Kenya was still ranked poorly on the listing of countries and their levels of human development, there were significant improvement.

Kenya and Nepal tied at position 147 out of the 189 countries.

Average incomes in Kenya have risen 34 per cent over the last three decades, life expectancy increased by 8.9 years while school attendance rose by 2.8 years.

Niger and the Central African Republic are the worst countries to live in while Norway and Switzerland are the best, in the “very high human development” category.

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Seychelles is the only African country in the very high category, ranked 62 in the world ahead of Mauritius at position 66 in the “high human development” class.

Badawi said the matrices considered were beyond wealth, which has previously been the conventional measure of development.

“Going beyond income, the report looks at vast disparities in power and opportunity that are cementing the divide between the haves and the have-nots. The report points out that gaps in basic capabilities – such as child mortality and primary education are narrowing albeit slowly,” he said of Kenya.

UN Resident Coordinator Siddharth Chatterjee said the inequality was costing Sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion (Sh9.5 trillion) a year in lost opportunities.

Unpaid work, especially among stay-at-home women, is among the contributing factors to the huge losses.

A previous study, also by the UNDP, evaluated the worth of the missed opportunities as part of measuring the human development index.

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