The raging millennial conversation that’s been going in the country over the past three months points to a growing public voice but also the vocalization of group-wide frustration by the upcoming age group that’s stepping into adulthood at one of the most precarious seasons for the country.
The institutionalization of corruption, plateauing of the main growth industries like banking, real estate, telecoms, higher education have significantly reduced the job opportunities available and accessible to the young people.
Millennials generally defined as anyone born between 1982 and 2004 make up the largest bulk of the country’s population and have seen their fortunes plummet as the manufacturing sector share of the gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by more than two percentage points from almost 11 per cent in 2013 to 8.4 per cent in 2017.
It’s hard to miss the frustration a reality occasioned by shrinking opportunity, a dying labour market, and a non-existent social mobility.
Meanwhile, former communication director in Nairobi County Walter Mong’are has blamed the young terming them entitled and lazy a charge that’s elicited massive reaction from the public. This frosty back and forth that is increasingly taking generational dimensions has the markings of a long drawn out battle especially as the economy worsens.
It’s inevitable that when socioeconomic class conversations come up they will inevitably take on generational demarcations since wealth tend to be skewed towards older generations as they had more time to accumulate wealth and incomes. However, it’s clear that one of the most consequential blunders committed in the 2000s and early 2010s is that we expanded the educational opportunities without a commensurate expansion in labour market opportunities especially the manufacturing sector.
This critical mismatch in our political development created a huge pool of young, brilliant, well-educated yet frustrated, jobless and resentful millennials.
Based on the recent conversations dubbed ‘Youth Economic Dialogues’ the keynote speakers fell for the age old idea of encouraging the youths to work hard, put in the effort, remain focused and have a dogged determination.
While values like planning and discipline are good for the young we’ll need to start talking about creating the necessary social safety nets, and making public investments in social interventions like affordable public social services like water, security, infrastructure, education and energy.
Because no amount of hard work, focus and determination can compensate for shrinking opportunity, flailing labour market dynamics, and stalled intergenerational mobility.
Darius Okolla, Nairobi