Nearly 3.17 million young Kenyans eligible for work or school are idle in the three months to June, underlining the time bomb of youth unemployment in an economy shedding jobs.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data show that the number of persons aged between 15 and 34 who were not learning or working has increased from 2.75 million in December and two million in June last year.
This means that more than 1.6 million young people joined the ranks of those considered idle in a business environment where about 1.72 million workers lost jobs in quarter to June when Kenya imposed coronavirus-induced lockdown that led to layoffs and pay cuts.
“The proportion of these youth (out of work and school) stood at 18.2 per cent in second quarter of 2020, a 2.2 percentage increase from the level recorded in the first quarter of 2020,” said KNBS.
“There was also a significant increase of 6.4 percentage points in NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) over the one-year period.”
This backs World Bank data on Kenya which indicates that the country had the highest rate of youth joblessness in East Africa in 2015 with 17 per cent of all young people eligible for work lacking jobs.
Neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda had comparable rates of 5.5 per cent and 6.8 per cent respectively, and the latest census data points to worsening unemployment for the youth aged between 18 and 34.
Kenya’s years of strong economic growth have created jobs, but they are mostly low-paying, informal and coming at a rate that economists say is too low to absorb the rapidly growing population.
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.
The quarter two share of idle youth reduced marginally from 25.5 per cent (1.14 million) in the three months to June when Kenya unveiled a Sh10 billion stimulus plan that offered young people jobs in the villages and estates.
The jobs include road construction, installation of water network and cleaning works.
Some 631,787 persons within the age bracket of 15 and 19 years were found to be out of school in a period when President Uhuru Kenyatta has made day secondary schools free to boost transition from primary to secondary schools.
This was a rise from 510,498 in the first quarter of the year and 382,092 in the three months of June last year.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has raised the alarm over the rising youth unemployment.
“It perpetuates the inter-generational cycle of poverty and is sometimes associated with higher levels of crime, violence, civil unrest, substance abuse and the rise of political extremism,” the ILO had warned in the World Employment and Social Outlook for Youth 2016 report.
Young workers between the ages of 20 and 29 years accounted for 63 per cent of the lost jobs or 1,158,466 positions in the quarter to June, during the peak of Covid-19 restrictions limiting travel, mass gathering and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
This is a major blow to jobseekers, especially the about one million young people graduating from various schools and training centres annually.
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