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Unemployment in Kenya



Jobseekers wait to hand in their documents during recruitment at County Hall in Nairobi, 2019.NMG
Jobseekers wait to hand in their documents during recruitment at County Hall in Nairobi, 2019.NMG


The rate of unemployment in Kenya has increased to 6.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021 against 5.4 percent in the previous quarter according to Statista.

The number of unemployed people in Kenya has increased drastically with youth aged 20-24 years leading followed by youths aged 15-19 years.

From the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) 2020,1.72 million Kenyans lost their jobs between the month of April and June 2020 when coronavirus restrictions were put in place. The youths accounted for 63% of the job loss.

It is estimated that 30,000 graduates flood the job market each year with the hope of securing a job. But the big question is, do we have enough employment for each graduate? The unemployment rate in Kenya has seen individuals turn to compromise measures to achieve economic independence. Youths have turned to crime, drug abuse, prostitution, and other heinous ways to make money. Unemployment has also led to inflation and depression among Kenyan youths.

In recent days we have seen a number of Kenyan youths who have come out to beg for jobs. Many have stood on the highways holding placards describing their academic qualifications and asking for jobs. Some have more than one degree and master’s. Some graduates have threatened to burn their certificates because they feel they no longer need them. ln the latest case, one Bill Clinton Muguai took to social media to say he is dumping his papers to pursue a career in content creation. Bill Muguai scored straight As in his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and has a bachelor of science in Electrical and Electronic engineering from the University of Nairobi. Bill Muguai said he has been looking for a job for the last two years with no breakthrough. He has resorted to returning to his village and engaging in farming.

What is unemployment?

Unemployment refers to the share of people who want to work but cannot find jobs though they are actively looking for jobs. This may be due to workers whose jobs ended because of economic recession or lack of jobs due to the labor supply being higher than the job demand.

Causes of Unemployment in Kenya

Mismatch in skills development and demand

Skills mismatch is a difference between the skills that are needed by the employer and the skills that are possessed by the graduate. Most universities in Kenya are training students with skills that are not meeting the labor demand. Most graduates end up looking for jobs in vain because their skills are obsolete


Corruption is not just an ethical issue. It represents a serious degradation of the institution necessary for the proper functioning of an economy. It’s a hindrance to job creation and the promotion of social equality. Corruption prevents fair competition as individuals are awarded according to whom they know, the money they offered compared to qualifications. Many Kenyans have been cut out of the job market due to discrimination by corrupt officials

Education System.

For a long period, the education system of Kenya has been blamed for the continuous increase in the number of unemployed people in Kenya. According to experts the 8:4:4 system train students to become job seekers rather than job creators. Many students do not have the technical skills where they can create their own jobs and instead rely more on formal employment or white-collar jobs. The government 2017 introduced the competency-based curriculum (CBC). In this new curriculum, the learner is thought more relevant skills to solve problems and be a critical thinker

The emergency of non-certified Colleges and Universities

The number of colleges and universities popping up in Kenya keeps on increasing yearly. Without properly investigating their credibility many Kenyans have ended up joining these varsities and end up with fake certificates since the schools are not registered or certified to offer some of the courses. The graduates end up with degrees that are not recognized and cannot secure jobs

Low level of education.

The high cost of education excludes those who cannot afford education. Because of poverty, many students have dropped out and discontinued their education despite getting good grades in their primary and secondary education. The government has introduced bursaries and scholarships for needy students but not all of them are reached. The HELB loan that is offered for university students is not enough as the institution is also dealing with huge debts from the beneficiary who have not paid the loans after graduating due to unemployment. To secure a job in Kenya employers ask for at least a secondary school certificate.


For Kenya to reduce the number of unemployed people from individual to the national level, they should put the following into consideration:

  • Support the creative industry. The creative industry products such as music, art, film art, and many others have employed many youths directly. The government can support this industry by providing a conducive working environment such as reducing taxes, protecting copyright laws, paying and distributing royalties
  • Support youths to create jobs. The government can do this by offering entrepreneurial skills and technical skills
  • Offer business loans with lower interest. President Ruto has promised to open a hustle fund where small business owners are encouraged to take loans through saving.
  • Employment statistics. The government should have reliable unemployment data for future programming and interventions
  • Holistic education system. An education system that is all-inclusive and allows students to get skills that are relevant for future use


There are a number of factors that have resulted in the high rates of unemployment in Kenya. Education, skills, industry, and economic growth are among the factors. To end the unemployment cycle in Kenya, we have to highlight, review and remind ourselves of these factors and provide solutions to curb unemployment.

Veronica Kaveza
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Freelance writer and podcaster

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