- By the end of 2022, the number of Kenyans without jobs were about 3 million and the hardest hit were young people between the ages of 20 and 29.
- President Ruto has repeatedly expressed his administration’s desire to see more Kenyans employed and no households languishing in poverty.
What is in thine hand?
This was a question that God asked Moses. You see, Moses was a man full of excuses for his inadequacy in rescuing the Israelites from Egypt.
He questioned his identity, his knowledge, his persuasion, his articulation, and his unavailability.
Throughout the accounts in the Bible, God had an unconventional habit of using whatever a person possessed if they simply yielded to him.
He used a stick, a coat, a fish, a couple of pennies, a slingshot, a jawbone, a rock and even some loaves of bread.
The lesson was simple. The object did not have to be grand, majestic, the usual, the known or the familiar. One simply had to trust the process and its instructor.
In one satirical play, there was a king who was faced with the crisis of youth unemployment in his country.
He was under immense pressure to find a solution to this predicament for his people.
Several advisors gave him suggestions, but none seemed to work.
Eventually, after running out of all options, he turned to his court jester and asked him for advice.
The court jester said that was a very simple problem.
He told the king to ask all the young people to assemble at the palace and form two lines; one for those employed and the other for those unemployed.
He then told the king to shoot all the unemployed. There. Problem solved.
By the end of 2022, the number of Kenyans without jobs were about 3 million and the hardest hit were young people between the ages of 20 and 29.
This age group accounts for 36 percent of the total Kenyan population.
And every year, the country churns out about a million young people into the job market.
The World Bank estimates that Kenya needs to create 900,000 new jobs each year as a way of absorbing those entering the job market to deal with this unemployment crisis.
Kenya, what is in thine hand?
President Ruto has repeatedly expressed his administration’s desire to see more Kenyans employed and no households languishing in poverty.
He further revealed that some of the labour destinations that his administration has formalized agreements with include UAE, Qatar, Canada, and Israel.
His administration plans to export at least one million people as migrant workers.
This number is commensurate with those entering the job market each year.
Like clockwork, this proposition has attracted public remonstration.
His critics have argued that this amounts to brain drain while others have faulted his ineptitude in creating jobs domestically, thus espousing that he is not fit for office.
Still, others have highlighted the mistreatment and difficult enslaving working conditions that Kenyan migrant workers face while working abroad.
The unfortunate truth is that these critics have cushy jobs. Their children and grandchildren are set up for life. They will never tarmac a day in their lives.
Despite these critics' opinions, a study conducted by Afro barometer showed that 13 per cent of unemployed youth in Kenya had the desire to emigrate to find employment outside of the country.
Each has a story on the push or pull factors that bring them to the point of making this momentous decision. And unemployment tops the list of those factors.
Begs the question. Do the benefits of being migrant workers outweigh their alternatives?
Think about it for a moment. Not with your heart but with your head.
If foreign employers offer Kenyan migrants less than their alternatives offer, the former will not leave the borders of Kenya.
Equally, if the migrant workers add no value to their foreign employers, the latter will not want to hire the migrants.
The necessity of mutual gain is a simple and powerful proposition that the critics conveniently overlook.
The Central Bank of Kenya reported that migrant remittances had increased tenfold in the last fifteen years.
The cumulative flows for the 12 months to March 2023 totalled USD 4,020 million or Sh541.7 billion compared to USD 3,913 million or Sh 527.1 billion during the same period in 2022.
In essence, the country is earning more foreign exchange from remittances than each of its major exports such as coffee, tea, and horticulture thus maintaining the country’s foreign reserves at USD 6,376 million or Sh859.2 billion in the same period.
The benefits of remittances cannot be gainsaid.
So important is their role in alleviating poverty and reducing inequality that every year on the 16th of June, the global community observes the International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR) to raise awareness of the important work of millions of migrants who support their families of origin.
Remittances put a meal on the table, pay for medical costs, replace grass-thatched roofs with iron sheets, buy water tanks, and see kids get an education.
They also act as insurance cover in times of death, crop or livestock losses, or other family emergencies.
As demonstrated, they are one of the engines of socio-economic growth and transformation. They are a key alternative to serkal saidia syndrome.
In economic-speak, these benefits are drawn from the concept of Place Premium.
The wage differentials among countries result in increases in earnings that a migrant worker experiences when they move to a high-productivity country.
Migrant workers from developing to developed countries see their Place Premium adjusted earnings rise by 700 per cent when compared to the same worker back home performing an equivalent job that requires the same skills and education.
The path to take is very clear. It is prudent for us as a nation to relax barriers, improve policies, and reduce criticism for the sake of it, to enable more migrant workers to migrate to higher-productivity countries as an effective way of absorbing the million job market entrants into employment.
Finally, my unsolicited advice is to the faultfinders of the migrant worker’s proposition.
That dog won't hunt. You have misidentified the enemy because the enemy is not the initiative. Poverty is the enemy.
And the art of economics consists in not looking at the immediate, but rather the longer effects of any initiative or policy. So stop chasing after shadows. What is in thine hand?
The hardest work in the world is being out of work. — Whitney M. Young