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Shame of Kenya’s 2.3m lost youth with no jobs, hope

By Moses Michira | April 1st 2020

A majority of young Kenyans leaving institutions of higher learning are pushed into the informal sector due to limited formal jobs. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Kenya cannot account for 2.3 million of its youth who, as of last December, consisted of a ‘lost generation’ that was neither working nor in any form of education or training.

Their fate is unknown as they are technically not unemployed as they were not actively seeking a job in the period when four quarterly labour surveys were conducted.

In rather startling findings, only about 925,000 people in the country qualify as out of jobs, putting the national unemployment rate at 4.9 per cent.

The findings are contained in a new report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) released yesterday that has for the first time revealed surprising demographics on Kenyans born between 1985 and 2004.

It paints a grim picture of a swelling youthful population that cannot be accommodated by the economy, turning unemployment into the biggest headache for the Jubilee administration.

Job creation was a key pillar of the promises that propelled President Uhuru Kenyatta to power in the last two elections in an economy where unemployment remains a major problem for millions of ordinary Kenyans.

Part of the jobless group includes young college and university graduates who have not found employment despite gaining skills through training.

Labour force

The age group between 20 and 24 is made up of fresh graduates and they suffered the highest rates of unemployment throughout last year.

Predictably, while unemployment rates remain huge for the older age brackets, the proportion of the youthful population without jobs has fallen, albeit marginally.

According to the KNBS report, a fifth of those aged 20 to 24 are unemployed. This is compared to 15.7 per cent in the 25-29 cohort and 11.8 per cent in the 30-34 age set.

It can be deduced from the numbers that the population is growing faster than the economy can create jobs, with the data painting an even gloomier picture for those expected to join the labour force today and in the future.

The KNBS report covers the four quarters of last year, reporting a marginal decrease in unemployment in the poll featuring 160,900 respondents.

There was, however, no commentary on where the jobs were created amid doubts that they were a true reflection of the larger population’s collective sentiment.

At a reported national unemployment rate of 4.9 per cent, KNBS would now be reporting the lowest figures among any studies, including its earlier one that showed that 39 per cent of the eligible youth population cannot find jobs.

KNBS Director General Zachary Mwangi reported last month ahead of the release of this latest report that the youthful adult population (aged 18 to 34) was 13.7 million.

Among them, only 1.6 million were actively seeking employment or had indicated that there was no work available.

Some 8.6 million of the 13.7 million were engaged in some form of economic activity, while the rest (3.5 million) fell in the group of neither working nor seeking employment.

It is likely that the 3.5 million consist of the lost generation of 2.7 million that has now given up on finding work to do.

Annually, about 800,000 youth join the job market.

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