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State internship sags under cash crunch as 90pc of applicants miss out


Jobseekers queue to submit their applications. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Close to 90 percent of university and college graduates who applied for internships in ministries and State agencies in the year ended June missed out on the jobs on reduced slots due to a cash crunch.

The Public Service Commission’s (PSC) annual report for the period under review shows ministries, State agencies and departments employed 5,560 interns out of 42, 132 who applied for the internship last year.

Ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) took 56.7 percent or 3,151 interns while parastatals employed 1,948 and public universities took 340 applicants.

Constitutional commissions and statutory commissions employed 90 and 31 respectively.

The broadcasting and telecoms agencies accounted for the highest chunk of interns at the MDAs at 269 followed by the Early Learning and Basic Education with 222.

The Interior and Citizens Services department accounted for 217 interns while Health ministry which is in forefront of the Covdi-19 war absorbed 213.

PSC attributed the low absorption to a cash crunch at a time the National Treasury has warned MDAs against hiring of interns and staff, sounding a death knell to millions of young people who graduate every year.

The freeze is aimed at stemming the ballooning public service wage bill that was projected to rise to Sh830 billion in the year ended June from Sh795 billion in 2018/19.

“The programme however, managed to absorb only 13 percent of the applicants due to budgetary constraints,” PSC says in its annual report tabled before Parliament.

Male interns accounted for 56 percent or 3,114 while females were 2,446. Some 144 were persons with disabilities (PWDs) — which under the Constitution is defined as a special interest group.

Of those employed at the parastatals, Uwezo Fund Oversight Board absorbed the highest number at 166 followed by National Museums of Kenya (125) and Kenya Forest Service taking 100.

The Nyeri-based Dedan Kimathi University of Science and Technology took the highest number of interns among the public varsities with 70 while the University of Nairobi was second with 59 interns.

The State rolled out the PSC internship last year to address a skills-gap that has for years derailed thousands of university and college graduates seeking jobs.

Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) has, over the years, poked holes in the suitability of fresh graduates they hire to start working immediately, saying preparing the new recruits was becoming costly.

More than a third of Kenya’s youth eligible for work have no jobs, according to the 2019 Census underlining the grim prospects facing university and college graduates


Census data shows that 5,341,182 or 38.9 percent of the 13,777,600 young Kenyans are jobless, further widening the gulf between the rich and the poor.

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation with firms laying off workers and freezing recruitment amid the economic uncertainty in a bid to cut costs.

With the increasingly limited job opportunities in the private sector, the National Treasury put out the lights on the youth after it froze fresh recruitment of interns as part of taming the public service wage bill.

In a circular to MDAs on preparation of the budget for the 2021/22, Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani barred the entities from recruiting new staff and interns.


The MDAs must now get approval from the National Treasury before allocating funds for fresh recruitment, dealing a blow to graduates.

“It is, therefore, the policy of the government to contain the wage bill to the medium term targets. In this regard SWGs (Sector Working Groups) should not allocate resources for new recruitment, interns or upgrading unless there is prior approval from the National Treasury,” Mr Yatani said.

Young Kenyans are the hardest hit by joblessness compared to others above 35 years, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data as the country’s dependency ratio keeps ballooning.

The KNBS in its Quarterly Labour Force Report released in June, 771,439 youth lost their jobs in the three months to March even before the Covid-19 adverse effects tore into the economy.

The situation got worse following the imposition of the coronavirus containment measures that forced companies to lay off workers as part of cost-cutting measures when revenues dried up due to limited activity.

Sectors like education, travel, and hospitality ground to a halt when the institutions were closed and flights stopped, cutting the flow of visitors.

Data from the KNBS shows that at least 1.72 million workers lost jobs in three months to June when Kenya imposed coronavirus-induced lockdown that led to layoffs and pay cuts.

Workers between the ages of 20 and 29 years accounted for 63 percent of lost jobs or 1,158,466 positions while those between 35 and 50 years accounted for 312,316 positions or 17 percent of the lost jobs.

Although the Covid-19 restrictions were eased, the economy will take longer to recover partly with fears that a second round of infections is here.

Across the globe, countries are returning lockdowns, something that is expected to hit travel and jobs market a second time.

With the harsh realities facing graduates, the jua kali sector is now turning out to be a safe route out of unemployment for university and college leavers who had hoped to secure white-collar jobs.

Amid the Covid-19 economic fallout and fears of a second wave of the disease hanging over businesses struggling with a turnround, the future remains bleak for the youth.