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Three key figures on Kenya’s (un)employment checked

This article is more than 5 years old

Many young Kenyans were without work because of the country’s retirement age, a lawmaker suggested in a parliamentary motion in the national assembly.

The member of parliament for the Starehe constituency in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Charles Kanyi Njagua, wants to lower the mandatory retirement age of public servants from 60 years to 50 years to “create opportunities for the employment of the youth”.

The lawmaker’s bill makes claims about youth unemployment and the percentage of Kenya’s population younger than 35. A news report on the motion also made a claim about Kenya’s overall unemployment rate. We looked at the numbers.
“75% of the Kenyan population is under the age of 35 years.”

In his motion, the lawmaker said three-quarters of Kenya’s population was younger than 35. The latest population estimates from the government’s statistics bureau suggest he had his numbers right.

In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Kenyans aged under 35 years accounted for over 75% of the country’s population.

Kenya’s population younger than 35 years
Year Total population Population under 35 Share under 35
2016 45,367,323 34,978,051 77.1%
2017 46,595,046 35,769,624 76.8%
2018 47,848,953 36,563,051 76.4%

Source: Data provided by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics
“The overall unemployment [rate] among the youth is at 55%.”

A youth unemployment rate of 55% was previously mentioned in the national assembly in a motion by Anthony Oluoch, MP for the Mathare constituency in Kenya’s capital. He was calling for youth unemployment in Kenya to be declared a “national disaster”.

Africa Check looked into this statistic in 2018. The source of the 55% figure was a much-reported 2016 survey by two Aga Khan University scholars. They found the unemployment rate among those aged 18 to 35 to be 55%.  

But Dr Alex Awiti, a co-author of the study, told Africa Check their survey of 1,845 respondents “wasn’t a labour force survey”.

Strict youth unemployment of 11.4%

According to the 2015/16 Labour Force Survey - the most recent - there were 10.7 million people aged 15 to 34 in the labour force.  Of these, 1.2 million were unemployed, giving a strict youth unemployment of 11.4%. (Note: The strict unemployment rate refers to the share of people who are not in employment but are available to work and have taken steps to find work during a certain reference period, expressed as a percentage of the labour force.  )

A UN Development Program statistical update estimated that Kenya’s strict youth unemployment rate was 26.2% in 2017 for people aged between 15 and 24 years.

The definition of “youth” is also a problem. The International Labour Organization defines youth as people aged between 15 and 24, while the African Union’s youth charter defines youth as those aged between 15 and 35.

Different definitions of a “job” also produce different unemployment rates, experts previously told Africa Check.

For instance, the statistics bureau’s 2015/2016 Labour Force Basic Report used a survey that asked people if they had worked for pay or profit for at least an hour in the preceding seven days.  

Awiti, on the other hand, told Africa Check that their survey used one month’s paid work as the threshold for employment. “One month is the basic unit of livelihood expenditure, rent, and other commitments,” he said.
“Kenya’s unemployment rate “currently staggers above 39.1%.”

In a news story on the MP’s motion, the website said Kenya’s unemployment rate was above 39.1%.

Africa Check previously looked into this figure and found it was wrongly calculated using Kenya’s 2015 employment-to-population ratio. The number was then attributed to the UN.

The most recent unemployment rate, based on data collected from September 2015 to August 2016, puts Kenya’s unemployment rate at 7.4%. 

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