JOBLESSNESS

Violence and unemployment interlinked

Relationship intuitively makes sense but it remains largely untested through research.

In Summary
  • Violence and crime have been linked to youth joblessness and perceived socioeconomic exclusion from economic opportunities.
  • To ease this crisis, the government has over the last few years invested billions in programmes and funds meant to support the youth.
Men looking for work.
UNEMPLOYMENT: Men looking for work.
Image: REUTERS

Speak to anyone on the streets of Nairobi and they will tell you they know of at least one skilled youth who is seeking employment but is unable to get decent work.

A report released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in 2018 revealed that nine out of every ten unemployed Kenyans are 35 years and below. This is just one of many reports which reveal the major challenge that unemployment presents to youth across Kenya.

Kenyans hold education in high esteem it is seen as an important avenue towards economic opportunities and social mobility. Rich or poor, parents in the country spend a significant amount of resources to ensure their children get the best and highest possible level of education.

The future is considered bright if your children have some level of education because it means they will have a chance at securing employment. Well this used to be the case some years back.

Young people in Kenya today live in complex and challenging times. On average a Kenyan youth will spend sixteen years completing their primary and tertiary level education before entering the job market where it will take them another seven years to secure employment. If they are fortunate the least amount of time they can wait is six months.

To put this in better perspective take the teaching profession in Kenya which records a high number of trained but unemployed teachers. A report by the teacher’s service commission this year observed that there are more than 300,000 trained and registered teachers who are jobless.

It went on to explain that the country had a shortage of about 96,000 teachers which shows that the supply far outweighs the demand. This is an example of just one sector to illustrate the crisis which young people are facing in the job market.

The Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation agreements that ended the 2007-08 post-election violence acknowledged youth unemployment as one of the key factors behind the violence and stressed the urgency and importance of tackling it for Kenya’s social and political stability.

To ease this crisis, the government has over the last few years invested billions in programmes and funds meant to support the youth.

Some of these are Kenya Youth Empowerment Programme with its flagship programme kazi kwa vijana, Youth Enterprise fund and the revamped National Youth Service.

The big idea behind these funds is to provide jobs and incomes to young men and women as a way of ensuring their economic and political inclusion. Globally as well as in the Eastern Africa region, violence and crime have been linked to youth joblessness and perceived socioeconomic exclusion from economic opportunities.

In the region, it is in Kenya where policymakers have most often and explicitly linked violence to youth unemployment. This is evidenced through the National Youth Policy Sessional Paper No. 3 which provides guidelines on how to address youth unemployment in order to prevent a descent into crime and violence.

Further the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation agreements that ended the 2007-08 post-election violence acknowledged youth unemployment as one of the key factors behind the violence and stressed the urgency and importance of tackling it for Kenya’s social and political stability.

While the relationship and possible impact of youth unemployment crisis and violence intuitively makes sense, it remains largely untested through empirical data and research. Initiatives such as the NYS Community Cohorts Programme which was aimed at reaching thousands of youth in poor urban areas by offering them jobs to improve their neighbourhoods and attain a sense of purpose provide rich areas of study.

To this end the Centre for Human Rights and Policy studies is keen on addressing the theoretical and policy gaps on the economic opportunities, youth inclusion and violence prevention measures which government initiatives like Kenya Youth Empowerment Programme (KYEP) and NYS seek to address.

As an organisation, we firmly believe in the value that data arising from empirical research on the linkages between jobs and economic opportunities and violence reduction/prevention can provide to policymakers grappling with how to address the economic crisis the country is facing.

Communication and Knowledge Management Officer, Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies based in Nairobi