Unemployment is a killer, warns US study

Unemployment among the youth has been cited as a major failure when drafting economic policies. Photo/FREDRICK ONYANGO

Unemployment is fatal, this is according to a team of researchers at Stony Brook University.

The team found that the risk of death was 63 per cent higher in the unemployed population.

They also found that the risk was greater for men (78 per cent) than for women (37 per cent). The researchers analysed 42 studies covering 20 million people.

Reported in the Social Science & Medicine journal, the results concluded that the relationship between unemployment and mortality risk was constant for the past 50 years.

“Our study results clearly indicate that unemployment is not just bad for your pocketbook; it’s also bad for your health,” says Joseph E. Schwartz, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural science at the university. 

The study, titled “Losing life and livelihood: A systematic review and meta-analysis of unemployment and all-cause mortality,” analysed the working class categories of men and women in Western states for a period of 40 years.

In Kenya, according to the 2009 population and housing census, there are 18 million Kenyans who can be considered economically active. Of these, 15.8 million are employed, with 2.2 million unemployed.

But the number of dependants has increased from 33.9 per cent in 1999 to 42 per cent of the current population, with most of these being full-time students.

“With an increasing dependency ratio, an expanding labour force coupled with low employment levels, unemployment presents a serious problem and therefore becomes an immense challenge,” says the Parliamentary Budget Office report.

In its advice to the Treasury as it develops the Budget for the next financial year, the office last week said that Kazi kwa Vijana had no long-term benefits.

“These jobs are temporary, offer no growth opportunities with the depressed wages, the workers can barely subsist and are still trapped in the poverty cycle,” it said in a report.

According to the budget office, the creation of jobs for unemployed Kenyans, especially the youth, is more urgent than at any other time in the country’s history and it needs to be the focus of the new growth plan.

“Kenya’s economically active population is actively expanding but unemployment rates remain high and the dependent population has significantly expanded,” says the report.