1.2 million Kenyan youth give up on search for jobs


Jobseekers outside County Hall, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Nearly 1.18 million young unemployed Kenyans had given up the search for a job in the third quarter, signaling frustrations for job seekers in an economy largely characterised by a hiring freeze.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data suggests 54.95 per cent of the 2.15 million people aged between 20 and 34 who were out of work did not attempt to look for a job four weeks to the end of September.

However, the number of youthful Kenyans who had “given up” on employment in the July-September period was slightly lower than 1.58 million or 54.02 per cent of 2.93 million jobless youth in the second quarter.

Overall, nearly 1.89 million, or 57.98 per cent, of the 2.63 million unemployed Kenyans aged between 15 and 64 — and who qualify as labour force — were not actively looking for work, according to the KNBS survey based on feedback from 25,260 households.

The data have been released on the back of sustained shedding of jobs in formal employment by companies, which have cited depressed earnings as a result of flagging demand for goods and services.

Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) executive director Jacqueline Mugo has said youth are the hardest hit by the country’s high unemployment levels.

The employers’ body has argued getting employed in the modern sector has become difficult, with the informal sector, known as Jua Kali, becoming the biggest driver of jobs.

“In Kenya, what we are facing is dwindling employment opportunities, which is pushing people into informal work,” Ms Mugo told the Business Daily on November 27.

“On average, in Kenya, people are staying out of employment for seven years.”

Formal jobs, for instance, fell to a seven-year low of 78,400 in 2019 in a softening economy where the Jua Kali sector accounted for more than 92 per cent of 846,300 new jobs, according to Economic Survey 2020. The youth are the hardest hit by joblessness compared to their counterparts above 35 years in an economic setting that is plagued by job cuts and hiring freezes on the back of sluggish corporate earnings.