Tales of despair for Kenyan graduates seeking jobs

The situation is so dire with recent state opportunities shocking the country with increasing number of job applicants.

In Summary

•The employment situation in the country has been so dire with the number of Kenyans without jobs increasing to more than 2.97 million in the quarter to December, 2022 as per KNBS data.

•Not only the jobs have become hard to find in Kenya but internships are also proving a headache.

Unemployed youth hold placards advertising their skills
Unemployed youth hold placards advertising their skills

A fresh graduate in Kenya is sending an average of 98 applications to different organizations before landing a job interview, illustrating just how job hunting is tough, qualifications notwithstanding.

The Star talked to at least 40 fresh graduates in the country who have given up on the job of hunting for a job. 

Anne Kirima, a postgraduate diploma holder in Mass Communication has sent the highest number of curriculum vitae at 210 since she graduated with a bachelor's Degree in Business Administration in 2019. 

John Garama who graduated in 2020 and is now attached to the government ministry is the luckiest after sending only 40 job applications before landing one.  

Samuel a Community Resource Management and Sociology graduate from Kenyatta University says that since 2014, the amount of money he has used in making applications is enough to enable him to start a business.

"I was only called for two interviews which I received regret letters. Since then I have done manual jobs that do not last long," a dejected Samuel says. 

It is also costly to obtain prerequisite documents for job applications in the country.

Our survey shows it takes at least Sh6,000 to obtain all documents which include good conduct Sh1,000, a Higher Education Board Clearance certificate, Credit Bureau clearance, a national health cover, a national social security fund card, and copies of academic papers among others.

"Thank God we are now in a digital era. We used to spend a tidy sum to print all these copies for job applications. That has been replaced by reasonably fair internet charges,'' Alfred Odhiambo 41, who has been on a job hunt for almost a decade now. 

The days when graduation from a university meant that the next stop would be to secure employment are long gone.

Today it is just the beginning of newer and harder struggles. 

Odhiambo, a former bank employee by profession says that when he finished his university Education in 2008, he felt like he was exactly what was missing in the market.

However, months later he came to realise that his perception and the reality of the market were two worlds apart.

“I sat out for four years and secured a job with a leading Bank. During the period I was unemployed I missed enrolling for my master’s class.

I worked for three years and in 2015 I lost my job,” Says the seemingly dejected Odhiambo. He was among the casualties of the changing business models in the banking sector.

Since that period he adds it has been application, interview and the now famous phrase “we will evaluate your performance and call you.”

Almost 10 years now he has had to resort to manual jobs to earn a living as his academic certificates lie in his bag.

The employment situation in the country has been so dire with the number of Kenyans without jobs increasing to more than 2.97 million in the quarter to December 2022 as per KNBS data.

The rate of unemployment among women in Kenya is twice that of men, revealing that the campaigns aimed at reducing the gender gap in access to opportunities were yet to bear fruits.

An analysis of the 2023 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that the percentage of women who had not been employed in the 12 months before the survey stood at 40.3 percent against 18.5 percent for men.

More than half of Kenyans without jobs, or 1.54 million people, were between 20 and 29 years old, underlining the growing crisis of youth unemployment. Just like Odhiambo, there are many more Kenyans who have resorted to pursuing their careers to just ‘survive’ in the city.

And of course, this is for those who undertook courses that are seen as 'marketable' in the country. Those who undertook courses like 'oceanography' in Kenya some of which have since been scrapped, we will look at them on another day.

Another Applicant, Vincent, says since he graduated from the University of Nairobi in 2015 with a journalism degree he has never gotten any opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream as an employee.

He notes that even though employers insist on hiring experienced individuals, he has had to undertake more internships and volunteering but has yet to succeed. "I've diligently worked over the years to gain valuable experience.

However, despite my efforts, opportunities have not materialized. For instance, I completed several other training programs in community service  and best management practices."

At the Nairobi CBD we meet Antynet Ford who says in the past four months alone she has attended four interviews all with the same outcome.

“I don’t know what’s happening, I’ve attended interviews in the past few months, getting a job is hard,” said Antynet. Not only jobs have become hard to find in Kenya but internships are also proving a headache.

For the last four years, Lynda says this has been her daily routine. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Mount Kenya University in 2020 and has been tarmacking for the last four years in search of an internship or job opportunity without success.

“Nimetembea Nairobi, nimejaribu kuapply za online lakini bado sijapata. Nikijaribu kutembea kwa maofisi naambiwa hakuna vacancy niache documents zangu wakipata opportunity watanipigia,” she says.

I dream of being able to support my siblings' education, but it seems out of reach." "I find myself competing for odd jobs at construction sites," says Maina.

The job situation in Kenya situation is so dire with recent state opportunities shocking the country in the increasing number of job applicants. The latest one is Kenya Ports Authority which received a total of 30, 102 applications to fill 150 internship vacancies.

Out of this, about 12,525 applicants were shortlisted. Similar scenarios have been witnessed in G4s recruitments Tribal allocation of employment opportunities has also exposed a lot of Kenyans, without connections in high places.

For instance, in the KPA shortlist of 12,525 that made it to the list, 7,544 were male while 4,981 were female. Kalenjins formed the majority of those shortlisted at 2,323, Kikuyu (1,944), Luo (1,850), Luhya (1,500), Kamba (1,372), Kisii (850) and Meru (372).

According to official data the long-term unemployment rate for women is significantly higher, reaching 63.6 percent for those without formal education, in contrast to the 18.7 percent reported for men in a similar educational bracket.

In essence, women lacking formal education are over three times as likely to be unemployed compared to their male counterparts within the same educational category.

However, women with educational backgrounds beyond secondary school still face a higher unemployment rate, standing at 25.8 percent, in contrast to men with equivalent education levels experiencing a 11.7 percent unemployment rate.

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