Youth unemployment in Kenya













Youth Unemployment in Kenya

Kenya is one of the developing countries in Africa that experiences a high rate of unemployment particularly among the youth. Unemployment is considered as a situation where able-bodied people looking for a job are not capable of finding. Despite the attempt made by the government to make primary and secondary education free, the rate of unemployment among the youth is increasing. According to ILO, unemployment rate can be considered as the number of the people without employment within an age group divided by the age group’s labor force (Africa Check, 2018). One of the most recent survey done by the Basic Labor Force in 2015/2016 and released in 2018 reported that around 1.22 million unemployed Kenyans are between 15-34 years. According to Africa Check (2018), this number makes up to 11.4% of those who are part of the labor force. This placed the official unemployment rate to be at 11.4%. Around 20.9% of those aged between 15-34 years were visibly unemployed (Africa Check, 2018).

For the millions of unemployed young Kenyans, unemployment has made life for them brutal and harsh with each day remaining a gamble and meeting basic needs becoming a difficult challenge to handle. It is sad enough that in Kenya, education has not changed much regarding youth unemployment. Several young people in the country have either been financed or have incurred a large debt to get an education but they still find themselves unable to secure a decent job like the early generation could. Consequently, most young Kenyans often find themselves running informal businesses, work in sectors that were long neglected by the private and public sectors. It is unfortunate that young people are expected to be entrepreneurs themselves out of poverty with absolutely no support structures in place, and continues to downgrade to subsistence living (Awiti & Scott, 2016). Like in many countries, young people are told that they can be entrepreneurs and create jobs but not all people are entrepreneurs.

Kenyan government takes a big percentage of the blame because it is responsible for creating job opportunities for its citizens. Some of the reasons behind the rising cases on unemployment among the youth include:

Corruption – This has proved to be one of the reasons for unemployment and underdevelopment for most countries across the world. However, in Kenya, the vice seems to have its roots deeps in the ground. Corruption has taken over the well-being of the country with political leaders as the initiators. There is a mentality that if you do not have connections, you cannot find a job and it is slowly gaining ground as one can hardly get a job without a connection (Hope, 2012). This is mainly caused by nepotism and tribalism which are common norms in the country today.

Low levels of Education – Kenya is one of the countries in Africa that have financed free primary and secondary education (Escudero & Mourelo, 2014). This has increased the number of students joining universities as every individual is given equal access to education. However, a good number of the students still do not get proper education when it comes to tertiary level because of inability to pay for school fees or lack of access to good educational facilities. This has been a great nightmare for those who seek employment because at the end of the day, they would need to get a job to help feed themselves and even the family. However, no company would be willing to employ someone who cannot meet the educational requirements that they consider.

Government offer Contracts to Foreign Firms – This is a major point of blame that the government takes when it comes to fulfilling its promises of creating employment opportunities. The country has universities that offer good engineering courses but in rare cases will you find a graduate from the local universities being awarded a contract for the construction of roads or generally in the construction industry. In most cases, the contracts are awarded to Chinese contractors who do both managerial and handwork and only a few Kenyans offering unworthy man-power yet there are so many Kenyans with relatively matching or better skills who can competently offer such services.

Emergence of non-certified Universities and Colleges – In the recent years, it is reported that several colleges and universities that are not ISO-certified have emerged offering formal education to Kenyans. Some universities in Kenya have been offering courses that do not exists in the job market, in order to make more profit from fee collection. This has rendered many students who graduate from these colleges jobless because they cannot get a job that matches their skills. Some years back, it was established that Nairobi Aviation College was giving fake certificates to non-qualified students (Nairobi News, 2015). This exposed part of the rot that exists in Kenyan Universities and colleges. The government nullified all certificates from the college even after a number of Kenyans happily graduated. Some of them even lost jobs and those who were seeking employment with such certificates could be turned down immediately.

Poor Industrial Sector – The country’s industrial sector is fast growing today, however, it still cannot offer enough employment opportunities for growing number of youths. A large percentage of Kenyans have good skills and services to offer but they cannot get placed to give them out (Gachugia, Mulu-Mutuku, & Odero-Wanga, 2014). This calls for the government to put more effort in the promotion of the industrial sector to provide better and improved employment opportunities for the youths.

One of the major reasons for the increasing unemployment rate is the large percentage of population growth. This has made many Kenyans get it hard to find jobs and earn money because the few opportunities that exists are a scramble to get. Some of the measures that the country should take include development of the rural areas. A large percentage of the unemployed youths are in the rural areas. It is important for the government to spread more industries and offer more incentives for investors to build more industries in the rural areas to enable the community people to get employment (Hope, 2012). This would create more employment opportunities within the rural areas. The current education system has been a major blame for the high unemployment rates among the youth. The education is based on the general performance of a student rather than focusing on the potential of a student. This has made passing of exams a priority for many hence not focusing on their talents and abilities. However, in the recent budget, the Kenyan government has increased expenditure on development project with youth employment a target. Most importantly, the government has made huge steps in protecting the local industries to shield them from the tough competition they experience from foreign companies that bring in cheap products to kill the potential growth of the local industries. As the local sectors expand, they provide more employment opportunities for the youths. Even though great steps have been taken by the Kenyan government to reduce unemployment in the country, the number of youths especially graduates who are unemployed is continuing to increase.



Africa Check (2018) ANALYSIS: How many young Kenyans are unemployed? A look at the numbers. Retrieved from

Awiti, A., & Scott, B. (2016). The Kenya youth survey report.

Escudero, V., & Mourelo, E. L. (2014). Understanding the drivers of the youth labour market in Kenya. In Disadvantaged Workers (pp. 203-228). Springer, Cham.

Gachugia, T. M., Mulu-Mutuku, M., & Odero-Wanga, D. (2014). Role of youth enterprise development fund in curbing youth unemployment in Kenya. European Journal of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities2(2), 1-11.

Hope Sr, K. R. (2012). Engaging the youth in Kenya: empowerment, education, and employment. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth17(4), 221-236.

Nairobi News (2015) Investigators confirm rot at Nairobi Aviation college. retrieved from

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