YOVI Analysis of Youth Situation in Kenya Posted May 23, 2017 by Jane Munene


Kenya has the highest unemployment rate that mainly affects the youth, according to the United Nations. The 2017 Human Development Index (HDI) shows that unemployment rate in Kenya is equivalent to that of Rwanda and Ethiopia combined. This is a result of economic policies that have been pursued in Kenya and which have not been generating jobs in equal measure.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report, nearly every four out of every 10 Kenyans of employable status are unemployed with the youth being the most affected by this situation. This means 39.1% of the Kenyan population of working age are unemployed compared to Tanzania’s 24%, Ethiopia 21.6%, Uganda’s 18.1% and Rwanda’s 17.1%. So serious is the situation of unemployment in Kenya that UNDP gives warning that this could lead to run away crime and extreme violence.

Despite obvious efforts by Kenya towards human development in respect to education, health and sanitation with a significant number of people getting out of poverty, there is still a huge group of people mostly the youth that are still marginalized and trapped in squalor, according to the UN agency. The report argues that the situation of mass unemployment has forced unemployed youth to depend on the small number of working adults and this has overstretched family incomes. It is very difficult for any family to save or invest in the current situation.

The high level of unemployment in Kenya has also contributed to a situation of one of the biggest dependency ratios in the world at 75.4% due to the large number of youth in every family who are unemployed and depending on their parents and guardians for survival according to the UN agency report. This is made worse by income inequality at 33.1% which is only second to Rwanda. This means that wealth is held by a few and this contributes to the runaway unemployment.

Kenya’s youth unemployment crisis has also been attributed to the slow growth of formal sector jobs despite the huge production of thousands of university graduates every year. Due to this, the country is failing to utilize the available benefits arising from the educated young people in terms of innovation, productivity and consumer market expansion. The UN report shows that Kenya’s labor market has become worse from a high of 75.9% in 2011 to 60.9% in 2017. This will only contribute to slowing down efforts in poverty eradication and contribute to extreme violence and other vices.

YOVI therefore works with young people providing them with empowering information and skills that enable them participate in governance processes concerning their lives.

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