10 Main Causes of Unemployment in Kenya and the Solution

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The rate of unemployment in Kenya as it stands is very much alarming. Nearly every Kenyan right now knows someone or two who is unemployed.

Unemployment is not necessarily caused by one’s own will. It’s never predetermined because every parent who takes their child to school has a positive expectation that they will be successful and have a better life than the one they grew up around.

Do you ever wonder why someone can go to school, be an excellent student, but still fail to meet society’s expectation of getting the perfect job in a corner office and a rotating seat?

 A recent study by the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) has ranked Kenya as having the highest unemployment rate in the East African region.

According to the study, one out of every five youth in Kenya is unemployed even as thousands of graduates flock the job market every year.

It’s even worse for the current University students who will have their fees tripled; now, all they can see is a very dim light in their future as securing employment gets harder.

Unemployment is not an ideal situation to be in for anyone. The entire East Africa region has an unemployment rate of 80%.

The Jua Kali sector in Kenya has however helped in providing job opportunities as it employs at least 86% of the workforce thus controlling 80% of the economy.

 According to a survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), seven million Kenyans are unemployed.

Out of these, 1.4 million have been desperately looking for work and most probably are graduates or have skills they can use in a job.

The rest have given up on job hunting, with some opting to go back for further studies. According to the survey, up to 19.5 million Kenyans are active in the labour force, majority of them in low-cadre, poor-paying jobs.

We have different types of unemployment:

  • Involuntary unemployment. This occurs when interested people seek jobs but cannot get due to the existing wage bill
  • Disguised unemployment. Occurs when the employed people are more than those required
  • Frictional unemployment. Occurs when people lose jobs and start searching for new ones
  • Residual unemployment. Unemployment affecting people with mental or physical challenges which hinder their hiring chances
  • Structural unemployment. Occurs when the demand for labour goes down due to changes in production like the introduction of machinery.

Regardless of the type of unemployment, the reality remains: There is a considerable number of youth seeking employment and more still to leave colleges.

Most people owe unemployment to the challenges facing development in Kenya while others attribute it to the rising youth population in Kenya.

These are valid reasons, but there is more to this problem than often meets the eye. Here are a few reasons that have been found out.

1. Ineffective Education system.

Poor Education System in Kenya
Poor and Ineffective Education System in Kenya

The education system of Kenya has been blamed for a long time as being behind the current crisis of youth unemployment in Kenya.

There have been reports that the system as is currently set does not train youths and students in schools to be job creators, but instead pumps them with the knowledge that enables them to become job seekers when they are done with schooling.

This has led to a lazy crop of young adults who cannot think outside the box to find means of survival.

The emphasis on white-collar jobs during formal training in schools and colleges has corroded the mindset of the youth who now believe that without securing an excellent employment opportunity they cannot survive.

This is why I advocate for people to exploit online money-making opportunities.

2. Corruption – our true enemy.

The mentality which probes that one cannot find a job in Kenya without connections is never wrong and seems to never be wrong in the coming future.

It has gained ground and is here to stay. You can hardly find a job in Kenya without ‘connections’ and this is caused by tribalism and nepotism which are norms in the country today.

3. Lack of Co-operant Factors.

This is especially in the case of scarce capital and skilled labour in Kenya. Many individuals, unfortunately, graduate with degrees from schools but they lack the skills and experience to work in different sectors.

The rate of youth unemployment in Kenya is disturbing not because the youth are incapable of working, but because they expect the government to create jobs for them.

This mindset has crippled many who struggle to get to the cities when they can create jobs right where they are in agriculture or even informal sectors such as carpentry and other forms of partisanship.

4. Government offering contracts to foreigners firms.

This is a major point to blame the government. Kenya has universities offering good engineering courses but you will never find graduates from these universities in road construction sites or generally the construction industry.

All you find are Chinese engineers doing both the managerial and handwork with only a few Kenyans providing unworthy manpower which shouldn’t be the case – this is our country.

5. High population growth rate.

The rate of population increase has currently been too high hence fewer jobs available for all people. People tend to migrate in the urban areas in search of jobs. This aggravates unemployment in urban areas.  

They leave rural areas instead of cultivating the farm in production of food. This problem can be overcome by reducing the high population growth rates using methods used to control population growth.

Corruption in Kenya
Kenya’s greatest undoing; Corruption

6. Capacity Under-Utilization.

Most firms tend to produce below their capacity leading them to cut on employment. This arises due to insufficient demand for their products and monopoly practices that limit output.

7. Poor industrial sector

Industrialization in Kenya is good, yeah, but it isn’t good enough to offer proper and enough employment to Kenyans. A good number of Kenyans have enough services to give out but they have no places to give out.

The Kenyan government should, therefore, put efforts on promoting the industrial sector of the nation to offer better and enough employment to Kenyans.

8. Seasonal nature of labour demand

The demand for labor in rural areas is mostly seasonal making it worse is the general ignorance of the existence of jobs elsewhere as well as by occupational immobility. This creates problems of underemployment and disguised unemployment.

9. An imperfection in the labour market.

An imperfection in the labour market is caused by the government and trade union interventions. This has by a large extent distorted the labour market by maintaining minimum wages above the market equilibrium. This has failed the Kenyan wage structure to coordinate demand and supply.

10. Use of inappropriate technology.

This creates a situation whereby industries continue using relatively capital intensive methods of production instead of labour-intensive ones. The reason is because of relative factor prices of capital and labour, and foreign ownership of firms.

Final Words

I think that the education system in Kenya and Kenyans, in general, should shed off the mentality of teaching and equipping people with various skills; with the main agenda in mind as to be able to find employment.

We need more employment creators. If we are to make any progress, corruption is a big enemy that we have to curb.

As you read this you should think about the present ailment of unemployment as a reflection of how the society to come has a probability of getting even worse.

You can start to change the future by being the change that you want to see. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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