Kenya's Youth Employment Challenge

15 Jan 2013

Kenya faces a significant unemployment problem that affects young people especially hard. Youth unemployment rates are several times higher than the rates among adults and particularly high in cities and among females. As young people grow up, they stop depending on other people’s income and become independent. During their transition from childhood to adulthood, access to
good jobs of acceptable quality is essential for youth to acquire independence from their parents, brighten their prospects in the job market and enhance their prospects of forming a family.


The focus of this discussion paper is to dig in the Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey (KIHBS) 2005/2006 in search of evidence to delineate the main characteristics of Kenya’s youth employment challenge and inform the relevant employment policies. The study adopts a working definition of youth as those aged from 15 to 34 years. Also, an attempt is made to be as detailed as possible in examining different youth age subgroups.

The paper builds on at least two important United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports: the Employment-Based Economic Strategy for Kenya 2007 and the Youth Report 2010. Analysed evidence refers to data gathered by the KIHBS 2005/2006, complemented with UN Population Statistics of 2011.

The discussion paper is organized as follows: the first section looks at historical trends of population, employment and economic growth. The second section considers the main dimensions of unemployment and the conditioning factors influencing labour market participation. The third section discusses youth employment and unemployment in the context of young people’s choice of activity by gender, education, income and type of area of residence. In the fourth section, youth labour earnings are examined, concentrating the attention on people reporting wage income. The fifth section discusses household enterprises, focusing on those headed by young people. The sixth section looks at unemployment and activity choice by province. The seventh section offers a brief review of Kenya’s employment and youth employment policies, touching on some international experiences of youth employment programmes. The eighth section offers final remarks, highlighting policy implications from the review of statistical evidence.

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