Kenya is facing serious unemployment and underemployment challenges. According to the 2017 Human Development Index (HDI) report by the United Nations, unemployment in Kenya, which stands at 40 per cent, is one of the greatest challenges in the country. The challenge is even made worse by the fact that 80 per cent of unemployed Kenyans are below the age of 35 years.
The report also reckons that Kenya has the lowest employment rate in East African in that 39.1 per cent of the Kenyan population of working age is unemployed compared to Tanzania’s 24 per cent, Ethiopia’s 21.6 percent, Uganda’s 18.1 per cent and Rwanda’s 17.1 per cent. “While Kenya has shown progress in promotion of human development in improving access to education, health and sanitation, with more people rising out of extreme poverty, several groups remain disadvantaged,” notes the report.
The good news, however, is that the government has been implementing policies to create jobs. Due to various initiatives in line with Kenya’s long term development blueprint, the Vision 2030, the government has created some 2.3 million new jobs since 2013. These jobs have been created as a result of the government laying a very strong foundation for industrialization through a solid economic transformation agenda.
To address the nagging challenge of unemployment in Kenya, the Ministry of East Africa Community, Labour & Social Protection recently unveiled a comprehensive platform, the Kenya Labour Market Information System (KLMIS) that will be a web portal providing a one-stop shop for labour market information (LMI). Its main objective will be to serve as an observatory for LMI for the Kenyan economy.
“This is the first-ever labour market information system in Kenya providing reliable and timely information. It links industry with academia and shall guide human resources policy-making, design and implementation for better allocation of the appropriate skills to meet market needs and thus avoid mismatch,” said Phylis Kandie, Cabinet Secretary East Africa Community, Labour & Social Protection when she launched the portal.
LMI is an essential component in helping generate, update and disseminate knowledge on current and future skills needs. Public employment services play a critical role in providing career guidance, vocational counseling and access to training and job-matching services. Private employment agencies also play an increasingly important role in matching workers to training and jobs, and improving labour market functions.
Essentially, LMI is any quantitative and qualitative information on situations and trends of labour demand and labour supply, information that directly or indirectly supports the efficient and effective operation of the market and, information that matches the labour market demand with labour market supply and information on factors causing distortions in the labour market.
According to Kandie the development of a comprehensive LMI system is one of the flagships of Vision 2030 with the KLMIS taking a multi-sectoral approach that has involved all labour sector interested parties in its compilation. KLMIS fits well with the Vision 2030 2nd medium term plan focusing on the availability of critical skills for driving industrial growth.
“A high quality, reliable and easily accessible human resource data base is critical for guiding planning and allocation for different sectors of the economy. With reliable data base, the shortage of human capital in sectors such as engineering and medicine among others can be tackled through proper planning and better focus on the requisite training,” added Kandie.
With its main objectives being to serve as a labour market observatory and intelligence or watchtower vehicle for the economy through providing timely, relevant and reliable information, it is expected to benefit job seekers, volunteers and volunteers involving organizations (VIOs) , students, parents, individual citizens, investors, employers and employees, the government and private sector policy-makers, and educational and training institutions.
KLMIS will provide the necessary information to guide on career choices for students, teachers, parents and other individuals who need to make decisions on what occupations to go into or what training to undertake based on the labour market information available.
For investors, the portal will provide regular updates on manpower trends in the labour market to guide their investment decisions in light of the available skill types and levels, alternative technologies as well as wage levels among other dynamics. Employees will benefit with valuable information on training opportunities, career progression, prospects for better employment and empowerment on labour matters as provided in various labour laws.
For educational and training institutions, KLMIS will provide information on the career requirements, manpower trends and also provide regular updates on job opportunities available across various economic sectors. For volunteers and VIOs, the portal will provide link for both volunteers willing to offer their time, skills and resources and VIOs who need the services of volunteers.
Besides, the system will maintain a database of all legitimate VIOs who have met the requirements of engaging volunteers hence promote efficient, effective management and coordination of volunteerism. The system will also show the demand and supply of volunteers, thus help to analyse and quantify the contributions made by volunteers to the economy. This will inevitably contribute to enhanced opportunities for the youth to enrich their CVs for enhanced employability.
KLMIS is also useful to the government because policy makers and planners in government and its agencies require reliable and up-to-date LMI for effective manpower planning, development and utilisation. The information will facilitate skill development that is aligned to labour market demands and enable forecasting of future manpower needs for the country.
In launching KLMIS, Kenya joins other countries which have the system following the realization that bad job matching poses problems for the growth of an economy. This is because the productivity of a worker and thereby of a company is reduced if the worker’s skills are not the ones needed for the job he is exercising or his level of education and training is too low to perform well. Beside, people with high skills who are only able to find low skilled jobs are equally less productive, as they are in a way under-employed. It is for this reason that better quality matches do not only lead to higher productivity but also tend to increase the worker’s and employer’s satisfaction.
According to research, LMI plays a significant role in enhancing productivity. By informing students, unemployed and workers about new professions and the skills required to exercise them, the labour supply side is informed about the requirements and changes of requirements of the labour supply side. LMI also provide information about vocational training possibilities and qualification programs.
Additionally, it can provide counseling to help people to find out their individual professional profile so that they may chose professions according to their skills and preferences. This service has an important impact on work satisfaction and by this on labour turnover, productivity and the reduction of unemployment.
Essentially, KLMIS contents include sections on popular jobs in the country, skills supply & demand, training institutions & programmes on offer, key labour market indicators namely employment & unemployment rates, labour market services critical for career development & foreign employment and government employment promotion initiatives. Its data sources include survey results and statistics from government ministries & departments and all agencies dealing in labour matters and related interested parties such as trade unions, the international labour organization (ILO) and training institutions and employers among many others. Moreover, the system is divided into five sections namely; labour demand, supply, market surveillance & resources, training and registration.
“This is free of charge, timely and accurate labour market platform that is linked to all labour market sites and which offers comprehensive and updated information courtesy of memorandum of understiandings with various government departments. Apart from offering job advertisements, it shall enable job-seekers to upload CVs to allow employers to vet for suitable candidates,” Kandie explained.
She added that the government has been, in the last four years, strengthening key economic pillars such as in education, ICT, energy and transport and related infrastructure among others with an aim of creating 1.3 million jobs by end of this year.
KLMIS will help to reduce the information deficit on the labour market so that the labour market can work better. This is because it will have a positive impact on the information flow within the labour market by collecting, evaluating and providing information to all parties in the labour market. By providing information, it will directly lead in improving the labour market functions.
Besides, by providing information it will help also tackle the challenge of unemployment, ensure career choice is not based only on interest but also on demand for labour and lead in increase in productivity as it will allow more people make the right job choices and companies to get the right workers.
In the medium and long run, KLMIS will help reduce structural unemployment of the occupational type that arises when there is a mismatch between skills demanded and skills supplied by providing information about the changing labour demand and the new skills required by new industries or service companies. It will also help reduce the cost of acquiring information about training programs and the evaluation of individual job profiles because they will be available online.
The launch of KLMIS could not have come at a more opportune moment considering the fact that the government is pushing for a mindset shift in terms of appreciating vocational training. Providing information on vocational training possibilities like courses offered by public or private training organizations is therefore an important function of the LMIS.
This type of service is usually aimed at young adults and all individuals wishing to enter the labour market for the first time. But sometimes also workers who were occupied before in professions that are not requested anymore wish to restart their career in a completely different professional field and need information on vocational training. Next to the general information on professions, young people and newcomers will need special information on how to enter the labor market.
Stakeholders in the country agree that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has the potential to be a gamechanger in tackling the challenge of unemployment. The TVET Act 2013 was designed to address the job skills issue and, more so, to ensure an increased and sustained enrolment ratio of 20 per cent by the year 2030.
It is for this reason the government has been implementing reforms to transform the TVET sector to ensure it plays a vital role in developing the skills which are needed to improve output, quality, variety and occupational safety, thus increasing incomes and livelihoods. This is because there is a link between poverty reduction, skills training, increased growth, productivity and innovation.
Coming when the government is implementing reforms not only on TVETs but also on the entire education system, KLMIS will provide information on available training opportunities such as courses offered by public or private training institutions, level of training and cost of training, duration of training and even location of various training institutions. This service is useful for young adults and all individuals wishing to enter the labour market for the first time. It is also useful for those already engaged in labour market but wish to change or advance their careers.
According to Kandie, the dearth of quality and reliable labour sector data has remained a huge challenge that has led to a mismatch between manpower demand and supply. “Unfortunately as well, the country’s education and training programmes have often been driven by social concerns such as prestige and peer pressure leading to preference for some courses without due regards to economic demands,” she regretted. Consequently, many colleges and university graduates have not been able to secure jobs while many specialized jobs have lacked personnel.
KLMIS will remain interactive between employers and those seeking new jobs or job change and others in the labour and employment space. “At county levels, we shall ensure that continuous registration of job-seekers and job opportunities is maintained. The platform shall also complement the work of government employment agencies including the Public Service Commission, Parliamentary Service Commission, Teachers Service Commission and Judiciary Service Commission among others,” Kandie assured.
“Though expected to be a game changer in the labour market sector through better analysis of labour market management and related policies and issues, and in facilitating timely and effective use of human resources, it shall require the co-operation of all teams and interested parties whose commitment in loading and use of the data is what shall drive the difference,” averred Kandie.
She was delighted to realize that youths shall be linked to the available jobs more effectively and efficiently while training institutions shall more effectively adapt to the labour market needs and demands. “Foreign direct investors shall also easily identify talent while the planning, development and utilization of human capital shall be more effective. Planning for career development guided by need shall drive the economy better,” concluded Kandie.
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