Kenya’s high unemployment rate presents a difficult labour market experience for job seekers. Kenya’s gig economy employs 14.9 million workers online and offline. www.businesstoday.co.ke
Kenya’s high unemployment rate presents a difficult labour market experience for job seekers. Kenya’s gig economy employs 14.9 million workers online and offline. [Photo/NHakeenah]

Kenya’s gig economy employs 14.9 million workers accounting for 83.6% of the working population.

The norm in Kenya is that for decades, the economy has remained largely informal but the gig economy is traversing and filling the gaps.

Online gig economy in Kenya

Operating across several sectors, including driver and rider services, personal and household services business services, delivery services, professional services hospitality and medical care, the online gig economy in Kenya is coming as an answer to the ballooning unemployment statistics.

According to a report by Mercy Corps, the online gig economy has gradually grown in Kenya over the last decade. With this growth there has been a transformation on how Kenyans access work. This sector is gradually transitioning young Kenyans towards more accessible, competitive and consistent job opportunities.

With the overall unemployment rates standing at 26.4%, and the Kenyan economy’s inability to provide employment opportunities, the gig economy is increasingly providing alternative economic opportunities.

Gig work is gradually changing the nature of how Kenya’s workforce accesses jobs. It is gradually shifting the access of work opportunities from informal to digital platforms. Hence, it is offering new revenue streams, creating more stability and formalising work conditions.

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Kenya’s burgeoning youth population

The report, Towards A Digital Workforce: Understanding The Building Blocks Of Kenya’s Gig Economy, says that Kenya’s high unemployment rate presents a particularly difficult labour market experience for job seekers.

“The challenge is more pronounced in the youth bracket with 15-34 year-olds accounting for 84% of the unemployed in Kenya. Additionally, the country is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’ with approximately 20% of the country’s population made up of youth between the ages of 15 and 24-years old.”

This ratio of youth is above the world’s average and Africa’s average of 15.8% and 19.2%, respectively.

“Despite the rapid expansion of the gig economy globally, there has been limited research to date on the size and impact of the gig economy in low- and middle-income countries,” the report adds.

It notes that this lack of knowledge limits the investment in the development and growth of the gig economy and the ability of policymakers to understand the experiences of workers and employers.

Thus, it is “proving a challenge for the development of evidence-based policy responses”.

Independent workers

The gig economy refers to a labour market that is characterized by the worker being independent where their work is short-term in nature. This way, the gig worker performs work on a short-term or task-by-task basis.

In addition, the worker is paid by the task as opposed to those workers who receive a salary or hourly wage.

The report categorises seasonal and casual workers as offline gig workers while all gig work that uses digital technology is considered online gig work.

Online gig work falls into three categories with tech-intensive work requiring high digital skills and is created through the production and use of technology e.g. web designers.

There is also tech-dependent work which requires intermediate digital skills and uses digital technology to varying degrees like transcribers and tech-enabled work which requires basic digital skills and mostly uses technology as a tool to connect demand and supply e.g. taxi hailing drivers.

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