Unemployment in Kenya: A Situational Analysis - This report discusses the unemployment situation in Kenya and documents past policies and initiatives that had a bearing on unemployment. Download Executive Summary for Publication: Unemployment in Kenya: A Situational Analysis
Wonder Why You are Unemployed? Book Review
By Gerrishon K. Ikiara (Phd), University of Nairobi
Unemployment has remained one of the most daunting challenges in Kenya’s socio-economic development process for most of the post-independence period. Aware of the challenge the problem continues to pose in the country’s effort to build an economically prosperous nation with stable social and political pillars as envisaged in Vision 2030, the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) with financial support from DANIDA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), commissioned the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) to undertake a situational analysis of the national unemployment problem.
The main objectives of the study were to analyse the main trends in unemployment in the country across groups and regions; undertake literature review on available studies on unemployment in Kenya; carry out regional and international comparative analysis of unemployment; review policy, regulatory and operational efforts made to address the unemployment rate in Kenya; and recommend interventions and reforms needed to address the unemployment problem in the country. The outcome of the study is a 59-page NESC Report published in June 2010 and entitled, Unemployment in Kenya: a Situational Analysis. The KIPPRA study team, utilising the Labour Force Surveys and Integrated Household Budget Surveys carried out in the last decade as well as other sources of secondary data of available literature, has produced an informative and comprehensive report on Kenya’s unemployment situation in recent years. With clear definition of terms and conceptual issues relating to various aspects of unemployment and commendable efforts to estimate the trends and size of the country’s labour force, the report is expected to play an important role in helping to focus the debate and policy initiatives that are required to address the current unemployment problem.
Starting with an Executive Summary, the report is organised in six chapters. Chapter One provides the background, motivation, objectives and methodology of the study; while Chapter Two reviews conceptual issues related to employment and unemployment with special focus on differentiating various types of unemployment and underdevelopment. Chapter Three of the report presents a well documented analysis of the unemployment situation in the country, focusing on the period 1998/99 to 2005/06. The period covered was largely determined by availability of country-wide Household Budget and Labour Force Surveys. The analysis covers in considerable detail the working age population, labour force participation rates, incidence of unemployment, international comparison, and causes of unemployment in the country. The causes of unemployment highlighted in the report include rapid growth in population and labour force; mismatch of skills, poor flow of labour market information, growth of impact of structural adjustment programmes undertaken in the country since the 1980s, poor economic performance, high labour costs, inappropriate labour market regulations such as minimum wages, jobs and inappropriate labour institutions. The chapter provides interesting information on labour market behaviour which helps to explain the failure of some of the initiatives taken to deal with unemployment in the country in the past. For instance, an overwhelming proportion of the unemployed population in Kenya (94%) only looks for paid employment, while only 3% were interested in involvement in business operations. This, to some extent, explains why self-employment was still lowly ranked by Kenyan young job seekers. It is also interesting to note that of the 3% interested in business operations, females accounted for a much larger proportion compared to males.
Chapter Four examines the policies and initiatives that have been pursued in Kenya to alleviate unemployment while Chapter Five analyses the effectiveness of these policies and initiatives; including macroeconomic issues, good governance, promotion of private investment, human capital development, sectoral initiatives, wage and various policies. The last chapter presents conclusions and policy suggestions.
The report is clearly an important contribution to the ongoing debate and search for effective interventions by the government, private sector and international institutions aimed at alleviating one of the country’s most explosive problems. The study’s strengths lie in its clear definition of concepts and measurement of unemployment and underdevelopment; a fairly comprehensive analysis of labour force, employment and unemployment trends during the period 1998-2006, effectively utilising the available labour market surveys and other secondary sources of data as well as an interesting overview and assessment of the effectiveness of various policies and initiatives taken recently to deal with the unemployment problem.
While the data used may not be fully consistent between various sources, as the authors point out, the report is a highly commendable and objective effort to profile the current unemployment situation in Kenya and provides a much clearer framework for debating, formulating policy and designing interventions to deal with unemployment in Kenya. The report is well written and informative, and will be appreciated by both the general readership as well as specialists in the area.