Cognizant of the domestic pressures to create employment under a burgeoning youthful population the government has changed tact to look elsewhere as the country faces a near domestic job-growth freeze.
The grand job-export plan pegged at a million job exports each year over the next three is to be spearheaded by the Labour Ministry under the newly operationalized National Employment Authority (NEA).
While NEA mandate extends to the promotion of employment facilitation in both the private sector and government it is emigration that takes centre stage with the government primarily eyeing the Middle Eastern labour market over the medium term.
NEA which was formed through a 2016 Act of Parliament, is supposed to make up for the shortcomings of its predecessor-the National Employment Bureau (NEB), which fell short of expectations under weak monitoring systems and a limited policy and legal framework.
The Kenyan diaspora workforce is estimated at four million with 500,000 of the total falling in the Arabian Peninsula.
Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) makes for the main takers of Kenyan immigrants, composing largely of a pool of domestic roles.
Labour Ministry Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani says the government is keen on doubling down its efforts to quadruple the contribution of the overseas market with an eye on a crisis aversion back home and a greater share of foreign exchange through remittances.
“As the country continues on the path of economic growth and development, we expect that the remittances from Kenyans who secure employment abroad and tax revenues from others who are absorbed in the local job market will grow to match our plans and ambitions,” he said.
Yatani who spoke during the launch of the National Employment Authority on Friday expects the contribution of remittances to grow by five-fold over the medium term to break the record Ksh.270 billion ceiling grossed in 2018 equalling earnings by top global-remittance earners such as the Philippines.
To make good on the opportunity, the Labour Ministry has developed the Labour Migration Management Bill to oversee the administration of foreign employment through the monitoring of complains, the dissemination of information received from emigrants and the establishment of a fund to cater for the welfare of migrant workers.
The ministry will further initiate the development of bilateral labour agreements to promote Kenyan labour migrants and ensure of the creation of not just domestic but also skilled roles.
The bill is expected to guide the formulation of sound policy to mitigate against human rights violations which range from human trafficking, exploitation and abuse which has on occasion stretched to physical injuries and even sudden death.
The sarcasm rest back home in what is an employment crisis characterized largely by millions of disenchanted youths against a backdrop of supposed economic prosperity.
Output in 2018 measured through Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for instance, expanded by 6.3 percent from a dismal 4.9 percent in 2017 on an account of improved weather conditions which helped propel agriculture to a 6.4 percent growth.
While the economic survey showed progress, new jobs generated fell to 840,600 as growth in both modern and informal sector roles eased.
Moreover, more than three quarters of the jobs created fell under the hard to substantiate informal sector as white-collar roles continued to dip.
“If we had the fortunate opportunity of the economy growing at a faster rate to absorb all the graduates, there wouldn’t be a need to export jobs. We have to look for other pragmatic measures outside the boundaries of this country,” said CS Yatani.
A combination of higher production costs and hiked taxes slowed down firms’ growth in 2018 impacting heavily on job creation.
15 of the 64 listed firms on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) floor for instance recorded losses during the year while 25 others recorded a reduction of profits.
The depressing environment spelt doom for the millions of job seekers to further exacerbate the crisis.
According to the labour ministry, open unemployment stands at 12.7 percent with a further 21 percent falling in underemployment.
46 percent of the working population is further classified as a working poor with the 2019 Financial Access report listing 51 percent of the population as one living from hand to mouth.
A United Nations sanctioned report in 2017 however puts the Kenyan unemployment rate at a higher 39.1 percent, the largest deficit in East Africa.
While Kenya struggles to take up an ever increasing pool of workers, some countries including South Korea and Japan struggle to fill up new roles under a growing ageing population and a sinking birth rate.
Canada meanwhile represents the greatest need for migrant works in the Western hemisphere as vacancies go unfilled in recent years.
While the immigrant sentiment has deteriorated in the United States and Europe, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is keen to add more than one million immigrants over the next three years to plug the vacancy deficit.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) small and medium sized firms are yet to fill an approximate 430,000 roles as at December 2018 with the jobs falling in services, construction, agriculture and oil & gas.
Canada’s unemployment sits at a near historic low rate of 5.8 percent with the job vacancy rate at 3.3 percent.
The pressure to fill jobs in such frontier markets presents opportunity for Kenya to alleviate internal job pressures by exporting roles.
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