A colleague of mine from the US was recently being outlandishly narrow-minded about the current state of affairs in Kenya. He said, and I quote: “One of the major downfalls of the country is the inexplicably high unemployment rate.” And you know what, in a textbook context, he may be right. About one in 2 able bodied adults are unemployed. Really, it’s about 4 out of 10, but when you take into consideration that most unemployed people are not featured in censuses and the likes, it may be significantly higher. So that makes sense on the surface. But dig a little deeper, I say.
I did. And after years of watching Kenyans and foreigners complain and working both here and abroad, I have decided on the few following facts.
1. The only people that apply for jobs are people who have jobs.
2. The people who have jobs and don’t apply for other jobs are subconsciously trying to get fired.
3. Most wananchi are resolved – no, determined – to remain unemployed.
There is a reason behind these mad statements. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago on the internets, I quite openly offered a very competitive job opportunity to whomsoever was willing to send me a CV. It was an IT job that paid in the range of 50-60k(net) a month and was open to any individual – degree or not. I’m sure most would attest that for a starting position, that’s not bad.
Yet, out of my 100 Twitter followers and my 1000 Facebook friends, I got exactly zero CV’s after one week of begging. That’s not counting all the other online services we used. So we decided that, hey, maybe online isn’t the best place to find IT people who need a job [/sarcasm] so we went the traditional route and put out fliers, newspaper ads and spread the word directly to our friends. From this, we got 2 CV’s.
But this is not enough. See, it’s a competitive position at a considerably respectable institution: 2 CV’s was far from our target of 20. But we were now fast approaching our deadline of 1 month to begin interviews so we got desperate. I went out and started poaching people at other jobs asking them to switch to this company with promises of better pay and benefits, while the HR manager started sifting through old job applications and current staff qualifications.
We ended up with a total of 7 Resumes. Of the 7, only 5 were even reasonable, 2 were grossly overqualified, 2 had previously turned down the job, so it was essentially down to the only 2 that had submitted CV’s.
Meanwhile, I meet IT graduates everyday who dare tell me there are no jobs out there. When I called them about this opportunity, not a single one of them rose to the occasion. And there is a reason why. But that didn’t dawn on me until after I watched a co-worker forcefully lose his job.
See, what happened was this dude, who sat at our reception, reported to work late, noticeably inebriated, several times. And by several, I mean he got a total of 6 warnings – 3 verbal, 3 written – and I know, for a fact, that there are times he was late and drunk and received no warning. Anyhow, on warning 7, he was sent on a one month suspension and advised to seek help with his drinking problem. He left without argument. A month later, he returned. And within a week, he was back to his shenanigans. As I write this, his bosses are deliberating just how quickly they can give him the boot without suffering legal reprimand. And his is not the only file on that desk. 3 other similar cases are being tabled for discussion.
And the only reason they aren’t being fired is because it’s so hard to find somebody new that’s actually willing to work.
Meanwhile, every night, weekday or weekend, more people report to bars than people report to work on Monday morning.
As Kenyans, I think we are genetically predisposed to enjoy having a good time. Hakuna Matata, Furahiday, Hanyeholics and all this. But we are yet to properly tap into a culture of hustling. I mean, those that grind, grind hard. Entrepreneurs and great minds are far from lacking. However, they pale in numbers as compared to idlers and jobless-corner dwellers.
But we have it in us to do well. So once we get a taste of what we can do, we strive for more. But if we fail to see it, we resolve to the default: which is loving life and not worrying about the consequences.
According to many a dictionary, in order to be unemployed, one must be able and willing to work but without work. I wonder if this really applies to 40% of Kenyans.
Able? Yes. Without work? Yes. Willing?
Well…..that’s really up for debate.