Joblessness a threat, industry and agriculture hold the key


Joblessness a threat, industry and agriculture hold the key

Job seekers queue to submit their applications
Job seekers queue to submit their applications. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

There is a need for policymakers to relook the macro-economic policies in view of the latest data on employment released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics this week.

That there are more than four million youths who are out of work speaks volumes about the ability of the economy to create jobs. In a country where young people also carry the burden of supporting their parents and siblings, this lacuna implies that the poverty situation could be worse than policymakers have hitherto presumed or budgeted for.

There is also a need for policies that will incentivise more young people to become job creators given the technological dynamics that are informing working trends globally. As it is, without full employment or near full employment the economy is wasting the most productive segment of the population, leaving the country with a high price to pay. Again, this a potential course of instability given that young people can become restless or susceptible to manipulation and brainwashing if not gainfully engaged.

It is important to look at the cause of the joblessness trends and search for solutions. One area that needs a relook is the relative stagnation in the manufacturing sector that should be providing solid jobs. While at last count employment grew at eight per cent in the sector — the fastest in the economy — the full potential of this sector is far from being fully realised.

This is partly because of poor macroeconomic policies that tether the industry. For instance tax measures are tilted against a lot of manufacturers, with a good example being a long-standing 25 per cent external tariff protecting the moribund Pan African Paper Mills in Webuye. A lot of labels and paper products are being imported, meaning that the country is exporting jobs.


The same can be said of numerous other industries where unnecessary imports, including second-hand goods, dominate at the expense of encouraging local manufacturing, yet we know that creating jobs also creates demands for consumption products.

Another key sector that can quickly create jobs is agriculture, especially with the injection of cash, expertise and incentives. While it has also improved over the years, it needs to be protected from regional and international dumping too while training for farmers — especially the youth — must be cranked up. Some counties are already heading in the right direction and should be encouraged as others are egged on.

Even as we focus on ICT and other service industries, agro-processing holds the key to drastically reducing joblessness if given support by the two levels of government.

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