How do we sort this demon called unemployment?

“Employment is more than a means to pay your bills. It gives you a purpose and an identity.”


Unemployment is one of the catchphrase words in the modern day thanks to technological advancements, stagnating economies, bulging workforce among others. These are just but some of the drivers and to address the matter at hand we must understand its root cause.


On 14th October 2020, I had to honor of speaking during the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) Annual Symposium on the topic of how to tackle unemployment in pharmacy. I can’t espouse to have a clear formula or strategy but I have suggestions and options on what we can all do not only in pharmacy but generally. Why do I say this? I focus on the entire ecosystem because we need each other to coexist and thrive in this society. For any profession that I may overlook, there is a chance that I have an acquaintance, a friend, relative or partner there and if I contribute to letting him/her stay unemployed it’ll ultimately come back to me. This is why we all have a role to tackle unemployment.


How do we tackle unemployment?


First, we must acknowledge that the contributors are here to stay for most of them like technology that brought mechanization and automation and the bulging workforce. However, on the same note we need to come to terms with the fact that for every career there was some form of training or education that was put in place to ensure the individuals are able to perform the tasks. It’s therefore important to reflect on our education system in order to tackle unemployment. During the industrial revolution, our education system was designed with a common goal of producing industrial workers. Since then there have been little advances in reshaping the education system while in reality we see the extent to which most industrial processes became automated. It’s important to align the training programmes with market needs. There is no need training one for a job that doesn’t exist or rather lacks it’s primary building blocks. Education should and need to respond to the market trends and this is why there is need to ensure we have a collaborative ecosystem.


Additionally, as we talk about unemployment we need to ask ourselves how many jobs we have been creating annually as a country and who has been taking lead in the process. I can confidently say that most jobs created over the last couple of years have been by the private sector who are least involved in training. On the same note, with some of the jobs created in the public sector, we can say they are to fill positions and ensure people have a salary i.e. creating employment opportunities but in reality the output in such positions are dismal. I’m not against creating more positions in the public sector. My argument is that we need more creatives who can generate new ideas within these structures to bring more value thus productively creating more opportunities for those who need jobs sustainably. Otherwise it will keep being the common rhetoric of a distended national wage bill yet there isn’t much output being realized. Such an economy isn’t sustainable and ultimately will crash. Unfortunately, these are concerns we don’t talk about as much.


There is an illusion if not a perverse notion that the government has so much money to be able to employ while disregarding the concerns of productivity and the value proposition for the same. Imagine your family as a government and your parents keep giving you whatever you ask for without generating any income. Ultimately, you’ll go broke as a family and if not you’ll be in so much debt. That’s where we are as a country and this is manifest in our debt level as a country and the tax regimes which are prohibitive even for businesspeople. There are needs for government policies and initiatives to promote production while at the same time opening up spaces for private players whether for profit or not for profit to operate with ease thus create jobs while sustaining the economy.


However rich you are you won’t employ me as a form of charity. It’ll be based on the value I bring into your venture. This should and has to be the basis of action in creating employment opportunities for it to be sustainable. Not all of us will be able to create such initiatives but those who can have an opportunity to extend the proceeds in terms of tasks to be performed by others productively.


To tackle unemployment; let’s create value, leverage on our networks and create enabling ecosystems through a market-driven competency based education and responsive policies. We all need jobs so the best we can do is strive to create more of these opportunities where we are.


“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.” – Harry S. Truman

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