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How ‘pushing’ is destroying the economy softly

By XN Iraki | June 16th 2015 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

If you asked most of your colleagues in the workplace on how they got their first job, you will probably get an answer such as someone pushed it for me. If you respond to a job advert, you are expected to have someone ‘pushing’ it for you.

In the past, there was no ‘pushing’. You applied for a job, got interviewed and if successful, got hired. Why the ‘pushing’? Who does the ‘pushing’ and why? The truth is that courtesy of population increase and our economy not growing fast enough, jobs have become scarce.

It is easier to create a job-seeker’ than create a job for him or her (want to hear how?). This mismatch has created brokers who do the ‘’pushing’ for a fee or favours. Ideally, with many highly qualified candidates, lottery would be the best. Firms have tried to avoid the hustle of shifting and shuffling through all these applicants by having tighter requirements to keep off unqualified people.

But they still apply hoping for luck. I think being in Human Resource department needs thick skinned people. Imagine going through 300 CVs and you only need one employee, knowing the rest are going to be jobless.

Right jobs

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Back to ‘pushing’. When we allow ‘pushing’, an euphemism for corruption to take over meritocracy, we often have the wrong people getting the right jobs. Too often, the pushers are people with influence, from politicians to power brokers.

They include relatives or nowadays business associates. Using their networks, they can influence who gets appointed to which positions. Ever wondered why in public firms, so people have the title acting (Ag)? The pushers are rational, they are investing and expect returns in future. To the pushers, that is their success and pride. But the biggest loser is the whole country and the losses can be inter-generational. To the job seekers, they realise that merits that was preached from class one to churches was a sham. That is how we plant the seeds of further corruption.

When such a young person who has always been short charged gets a chance to eat, he will eat even the seeds. Such bitter people even if they got jobs will be unproductive, carrying grudges and feeling that if they had opportunities, they would be doing better off. Such bitterness affects the family relations too.

For those who fail to get jobs, and turn to alternatives like crime, they can be vicious –if you have been attacked by thugs, you need no farther explanation.

When we present Budget proposals and economic projects, we often forget that our potential would be much higher if there was less ‘pushing’, if fairness was left to play itself out. While your relative may not get the job, he probably would get a better one in future because getting the right person will help expand the existing firms and if possible start new ones.

Ever wondered why our institutions and firms rarely change or expand and status quo is preferred? Yet, the present political dispensations seem to rely on ‘pushing’. The popularity of devolution was that it would be easier now for the counties to push one of their own to head departments, get jobs at both levels of government.

We even made ‘pushing’ legal, by alluding to regional and gender balance. The counties are now staffed by people who in some cases can conduct business in local languages. This lack of diversity is the biggest threat to long term economic growth. Of all factors of economic growth, it’s the people and their ideas that matter.

By helping or ‘pushing’ people get jobs, we stifle this diversity and economic growth. When there is no growth, people turn to each other as has been noted in poor countries and in Kenya’s poor counties.

In all countries that have made progress in the last few decades, there is evidence of fairness, letting the best minds work for the benefit of the maximum number of people. Is that not why tax payers subside education?

In the next decade or so, I fear that our counties will become Bantustans, where homogeneity of thought and even ethnic background will matter more than ideas you can bring. Counties that will put less premium on “their own” will reap handsomely in the long run.

Nuclear powers

We could learn from the past. Russia today is less of a superpower compared with USA despite both being nuclear powers. Do you know any Kenyan who refused to return from Russia? None but many disappear in the USA, adding diversity. That is what makes that economy grow.

Our firms will become Bantustans too, homogeneous in thought and perspective. If you are helped in getting a job, you may as well need some helping in creativity and innovation.

Helping people get jobs may appear heroic but it is costly to the economy. See the way US sucks talents from all the world, and allow them to be creative and innovative and spawn the next generation of firms.

Simple acts like ‘pushing’ or helping end up holding an economy hostage because the helped are rarely in a hurry to go, ensuring little change. Even family businesses eventually change hands when the helping hands of founders are not there. Helping and ‘pushing’ are slow puncturing the economy....

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