When asked what the Kenyan government should address immediately, unemployment ran second place, just behind the economy.
In particular, Kenya faces a youth unemployment issue no country is jealous of. As the economy transitions from agriculture to more modern systems, many young Kenyans are finding themselves displaced when looking for work.
According to a UN discussion report on Kenya, youth — those between the ages of 15 and 24 — represent two-thirds of Kenya’s workforce. There is currently a trend of rising unemployment over the past 4 years, reaching 17.1 per cent in 2013, the last year the World Bank had statistics for.
Many Kenyans still work on small-scale family farms. Youth as young as 15-years-old drop out of school in order to help on farms or to do other informal work.
However, as the number of farms diminish, many have found need to move into the cities in order to find work. Coming from rural backgrounds, young Kenyans often lack the skills and education needed in order to pursue wage-work in both the private and public sectors.
A problem with wage-work is that men hold most positions. Of the 5.1 million wageworkers, 3.4 million are men, compared to 1.7 million women. On the family farms, it’s mostly women who do the work.
According to 2014 data from Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics, the industries with the highest wages included agriculture, forestry, fishing, education, manufacturing and wholesale or retail trade.
Work is so important for young Kenyans because of the little social security they have; if they are unemployed, many will starve until they find new work — if they can’t find a job, many are forced into prostitution or other crime in order to make ends meet. Not having a job also leaves them viewed as untrustworthy and not integrated into their community.
To complicate things even more, young Kenyans often have to care for their children and other family members, leaving many, younger and old, dependent on them.
In order to operate in the changing landscape of their nation, the Kenyan youth need to learn valuable job skills in business and service industries. As urbanization grows, those skills will provide them with new career opportunities and will allow them to get more for their families.
Thank you to guest blogger Martin McFarlane for contributing this article to TCP!