Youth unemployment continues to be the Government’s priority. The latest initiative to address this problem is the launch of the Uwezo Fund set to offer interest-free loans to enterprises set up by youth groups

EMPHASIS on YOuth employment

Youth unemployment continued to haunt the Government. The youth accounted for 67 per cent of the unemployed population, forcing the Government to look for short-term measures to engage the large number of unemployed youths.

The Kshs6 billion Uwezo Fund is latest government initiative aimed at generating jobs for youth and women through grants and interest-free loans, as well as mentorship opportunities to enable them take advantage of the 30 per cent government procurement preference for youth, women and persons with disabilities.

The fund’s genesis in the pledge President Uhuru Kenyatta made to allocate the Kshs6 billion that was meant for the presidential run-off to youth and women groups.

The recently launched Uwezo Fund aims at expanding access to finance through grants and credit to promote youth and women businesses and enterprises at the constituency level.

workersThe fund hopes to generate gainful self-employment for Kenyan youth and women, and model an alternative framework in funding community driven development.

Earlier youth employment initiatives include the public works programme known as Kazi Kwa Vijana (KKV). In this programme, launched in March 2009 on a pilot basis, unemployed youths were engaged in menial work involving mostly rehabilitation and maintenance of urban environments.

Earlier in 2006, the Government had established the Youth Enterprise Development Fund to promote entrepreneurship among young people in the face of low availability of formal jobs. The fund was set up to provide loans in form of seed capital to initiate or boost businesses established by youth groups. In essence, it was set up to promote the development of the micro and small enterprise sector through wider involvement of young and enterprising people.

The Labour Youth and Human Resource Development Sector (2008-2012) also sought to change the attitude of the youth on agriculture. To do so, the policy suggested the transformation of agricultural and informal sector activities into modern and technology oriented enterprises to attract the youth.

To reduce the skills mismatch among fresh graduates, the policy further proposed closer interaction and collaboration between higher learning institutions and industry.

The issue of youth employment dates back to the indpendence days.

Kenyanisation of labour

(1964-1974)

Immediately after independence, Kenya embarked on aggressive policies to create employment for citizens, developing human capital and combating poverty. The Government decided it would achieve these through education, economic growth and development.

The Kenyanisation policy, introduced in 1964, stands out. It was aimed at reorganising the public service to have more Kenyans working for government departments and state corporations. The process entailed deliberate replacement of non-citizens in the public sector with Kenyans. At that time, British administrators dominated key positions in the public service.

To Kenyanise the country’s labour force even beyond the public sector, the Government introduced work permits to regulate the employment of non-citizens.

The other measures included limiting participation of non-citizens in rural enterprise and agriculture and boosting local human capital development.

Investments were made in technical and vocational training to promote the development of technical and vocational skills among Kenyans, and also to encourage growth in the micro and small enterprise sector as well as the cooperative movement. The Government’s development plan for 1964-1970 emphasised the promotion of a labour force that was productive and disciplined.

The Kenyanisation of labour policy resulted in an annual average growth of wage employment of 2.8 per cent. Much of this growth was in the public sector. Nonetheless, the target of the Kenyanisation policy was not quite to expand the public service sector, but more to reorganise and replace the non-Kenyan whites and Asians with Kenyans.

By 1971, the percentage of Africans in the public sector had grown from about 15 per cent to 97 per cent. And by 1981, the private sector labour force was 95 per cent African.

Sameer-factoryBetween 1964 and 1979, the Government signed labour agreements with employers in the private sector and trade unions. The tripartite pacts were short-term measures entered into by the three institutions (government, employers, and workers) to boost employment levels. Employers were required to increase employee numbers by 10 per cent per annum. In exchange, trade unions would neither demand wages increase nor go on strike for the agreed period of time. The tripartite agreements were signed in 1964, 1970, and 1979.

While it was not easy for employers to commit to the annual 10 per cent growth in employees, as this would depend largely on economic performance, many of them put their casual workers on permanent employment.

Meanwhile, by 1970, the Government had identified more issues to deal with to realign and expand employment opportunities. A survey had indicated that the major causes of unemployment included rapid growth in the labour force following increase in school enrolment and rural-urban migration. Thus, through Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1973, the Government pursued policies focusing on developing the rural infrastructure and improving labour market information and administration.