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A study by Trends and Insights Africa (TIFA) on unemployment released in December 2017 indicated that 53% of those polled were unemployed and 86% of them were young people aged between 18-34 years.

The joint research with the job listing site Brighter Monday revealed that with a working-age population of about 25 million. This translates to about 13 million jobless Kenyans.

Many Kenyans know that consequences of unemployment, but few of them have a clear understanding of the scope, impact and the devastating effect of such massive unemployment.

On average 900, 000 Kenyans reach working age population every year.  Meanwhile, the formal sector is said to generate as little as 50, 000 jobs annually. In recent years the debt addiction, the ecological disaster following the destruction of towers, massive corruption and the collapse of the labor market has led to huge job losses across all industries.

The problem is not limited to unemployment as only 5% of Kenyans admitted being satisfied with their current workplace and only 1% anticipating that they’ll still be working there for more than 12 months. In fact, close to 84% were either actively or passively seeking other job opportunities away from their current workplace.

Effects on Persons

Unemployment besides being a huge predictor of poverty, especially among the Kenyan youth is also known to unleash attendant mental, emotional and psychological effects on persons, families, and communities.

In a culture where work is associated with external signs of status, wealth and achievement, lack of well-paying jobs is associated with a marked decline in self-esteem, self-confidence, damaged ego, and feelings of inferiority in a number of ways.

For starters, unemployment often creates a change in social position within a friendship or relational hierarchy. Individuals tend to interpret an objective change in their environment to a subjective judgement based on social comparison with friends and peers.

Entrepreneurship tends to be an elitist issue with a 90% failure rate, with high possibility of financial ruin, and as such lacks the wherewithal to help the nation fix the issue of mass unemployment. Additionally, the core aspects of successful entrepreneurship, including access to social amenities, cheap capital, a wide variety of skills and tax-breaks are not available in the Kenyan context.

Secondly, job loss is often interpreted as evidence of personal inadequacy or self-blame and can precipitate depression, anxiety disorders, and increased somatic symptoms, such as fatigue or headaches, and higher rates of physical illness.

Thirdly, the rejection and failure that comes to job search further erode any confidence in an individual capacity and competence. Most Kenyan graduates have depressing tales of hundreds of unanswered job search emails.

Effects on Communities

Unemployment strains social relations. Neighbourhoods with a large pool of unemployed persons, especially the informal settlements tend to be viewed as less safe, poorer, and less likely to be prioritized by the local government.

It also creates a huge dependency on the few who are employed. Four in every five Kenyan falls within the non-working age group. This puts Kenya’s dependency ration at 80.9 per cent, lower than Uganda’s 102.3% and Tanzania who have 93.1% but way behind Rwanda at 78.1 percent.

This is a telling yet deceptive figure given that the actual rate of unemployment is 14% higher than the estimate used in this computation. According to US-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB), the number of unemployed Kenyans equals that of Ethiopia and Rwanda combined.

The social cost of long term unemployment in communities includes a breakdown of community life, stratification, increased insecurity, higher rates of poverty and lower nutritional options for the families involved.

 Effects on Relationships

Human beings tend to be very classist in how we date and unemployment upsets this paradigm significantly. Your average Kenyan man knows that in the absence of a paying job, their dating chances are closer to zero.

Unemployed men are less likely to consider long-term dating and rather opt for short term trysts and coupling. An economics professor Greg Kaplan’s 2012 ground-breaking study illustrated just how much the money market affects the relationship market.

In his seminal study, 75% of women said they wouldn’t date an unemployed man with 33% saying an outright no while 42% answered with a maybe. The study by Kaplan, who is a University of Pennsylvania professor would reveal that only 21% of women wouldn’t mind dating an unemployed man.  

Based on responses from 925 persons, two-thirds of men said they wouldn’t mind dating an unemployed lady with 46% of men saying they were positive about it while 19% said they had no reservation.

Joblessness is a numbers game and as it looks now, the numbers don’t look good for your sons, daughters, friends, spouses, and relatives. If nothing gets done, then soon enough fewer working people are going to buckle and the entire social structure of the community will come tumbling down.

Fewer dating prospects for unemployed men means fewer families, or higher ages for first marriages if at all. And we already know the danger this wrecks in our society when you have many young men without families or something bigger to live.

Chris Hart, the Sunday Nation resident shrink once said that every decade about 10 % of Kenyan men fall from the dating pool for women. Meaning many eligible women have no prospective men to marry them.

This is evident in parts like Central Kenya and Coast where alcohol and drugs have ravaged men due to poverty and the deliberate ignorance on the government to take a long view.

Tackling the Effects of Unemployment

The first step to tackling unemployment is to get the nation to understand the scope, impact, myths and pervasiveness of the problem.

First, there is a need to understand that some of the proposed solutions such as entrepreneurship cannot fix the joblessness.

Entrepreneurship tends to be an elitist issue with a 90% failure rate, with high possibility of financial ruin, and as such lacks the wherewithal to help the nation fix the issue of mass unemployment. Additionally the core aspects of successful entrepreneurship, including access to social amenities, cheap capital, a wide variety of skills and tax-breaks are not available in the Kenyan context.

Secondly, unemployment is a public as much as it is a personal problem hence the need for the public voice from the clergy, non-governmental institutions, higher education, the corporate sector and government officials. It’s an indictment of the government and its failure to play the primary role in creating an enabling environment for businesses.

Thirdly, the Kenyan labor market is disjointed, largely unregulated, and made up of workers with little understanding of their rights, duties and responsibilities in a workplace setting. Few workers are willing to agitate for a liveable wage out of the fear of being easily replaceable in a country where millions knock on your employer’s door every day looking for work.

The Need for Social Support

A study by notable Physician Dr. Richard Sandifer illustrated that after unemployment, symptoms of depression, somatization, and anxiety were significantly greater in the unemployed than employed persons. Not surprisingly, large standard deviations of self-esteem scores in the unemployed group suggested that some men coped better than others with job-loss stress.

Further analysis showed that among the unemployed men,  those with higher esteem had more support from social support systems such as family and friends than did those with low self-esteem. Furthermore, unemployed men took more medications, made significantly more visits to their physicians, and spent more days in bed sicker than did employ men, even though the number of diagnoses in the two groups were similar.

How Self-concepts affects the unemployed

There are many psychological variables that are affected by unemployment, including self-esteem, perceived control, and belief in self-competence, sense of meaning and purpose, life satisfaction, and sense of adequacy. The research on whether these negative impacts are long term or temporary are inconclusive.

A 2003 study showed that life satisfaction among the unemployed did not return to pre-employment levels even months after landing a job. As a country we cannot continue to pretend that a positive attitude, a great CV and employable skills are all it takes to land a job. On average, employers receive between 140 and 320 CV for every publicly advertised job with many of them being overqualified for the task at hand.

Joblessness is a numbers game and as it looks now, the numbers don’t look good for your sons, daughters, friends, spouses, and relatives. If nothing gets done, then soon enough fewer working people are going to buckle and the entire social structure of the community will come tumbling down.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue losing dear ones to depression, anxiety, suicide and social isolation just because they aren’t able to secure decent, well-paying jobs. Speak up.

 

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