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Young workers hardest hit by Corona, survey reveals

By Christopher Owuor
Tuesday, July 27th, 2021 00:00 | 2 mins read
COVID-19: Kenya records 432 news cases as 306 recover
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe. Photo/PD/FILE

Steve Umidha @UmidhaSteve

Youth unemployment remains alarmingly high in the country with young workers aged between 20 and 24 years coming out as the hardest hit.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data reveal that by the end of March 2020, for instance, the overall unemployment rate was 13.7 per cent with youth between 20 and 24 accounting for 12.5 per cent.

Youth aged between 25 and 29 accounted for 7.5 per cent while those between 30 and 34 accounted for 4.8 per cent, indicating a worrying youth unemployment landscape at a time the government is struggling to deal with the adverse socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Unemployment situation was worse in 2020 when an estimated 1.8 million workers lost jobs due to the pandemic, with 544,414 of those being young workers. The period was marked by heightened virus spread across the country.

This was largely attributed to the restrictions measures imposed by the government at the time in a bid to lessen the virus spread.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, youth unemployment has been a massive problem in Kenya.

Earlier KNBS figures show that the country had a whopping 1.09 million of its citizens out of employment in the first quarter of 2019, with 349,681 of those workers being youth aged between 20 and 24 years.

And while that number had slightly shrunk in the fourth quarter of the same year at 994,642 total unemployed Kenyans, it had climbed tremendously among young workers with 402,416 youth aged between 20 and 24 out of work in that year.

Labour force report

Latest KNBS labour force reports indicate that unemployment rate stood at 7.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2020, a drop from the 10.4 per cent recorded in the second quarter 2020.

It attributed that partial improvement to the reopening of the economy by the government thus implying resumption of duties for employees who had been sent home on leave or retrenchment.

Younger workers have had disproportionate job loss, in part, because of their concentration in the industries and occupations that were hardest hit when the virus was first announced in Kenya in March 2020.

It is estimated that about a quarter of young workers are employed in leisure and hospitality, where employment declined by 41 per cent between February and May 2020, with prospects of recovery to the levels seen before the pandemic hit still not in sight.

According to Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui, the foregoing clearly reinforces the fact that unemployment is still a youth challenge in the country and many are  looking towards the government to provide solutions to their most pressing need.

The CS who spoke early this year said while close to 1.2 million youth join the labour market every year, the economy is only able to accommodate 800,000.

“Therefore, it is National Employment Authority responsibility to look for opportunities abroad for the close to 400,000 youths who miss out on opportunities locally,” Chelugui said in Nairobi.

Christopher Owuor

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