The Rise of the Gig Economy: Transforming Youth Empowerment Through Employment and Skills Development in Kenya
In the heart of Kenya’s bustling cities and remote villages, a silent revolution is underway, fundamentally reshaping the nation’s employment landscape. The rise of the gig economy, often referred to as the freelance or on-demand economy, is offering a lifeline to Kenya’s youth, unlocking new opportunities for employment and skills development. In a country grappling with persistent youth unemployment, the gig economy is lighting a beacon of hope.
The gig economy in Kenya is marked by short-term contracts, freelance work, and on-demand employment facilitated by digital platforms. These platforms act as connectors, allowing individuals, especially the youth, to undertake various tasks and projects as independent contractors. This model of work introduces an unprecedented level of flexibility, enabling young Kenyans to tailor their work according to their schedules, skills, and preferences. One of the most remarkable aspects of the gig economy is its ability to balance work and personal life. The inherent flexibility makes it particularly suitable for students, young parents, and individuals juggling multiple responsibilities. It empowers them to navigate their professional journeys while accommodating personal obligations, granting them a newfound sense of control over their lives.
Leading technology companies like FUNDIS in Kenya are playing a pivotal role in connecting gig workers, often referred to as “fundis,” with opportunities in the construction and maintenance sectors. Through the FUNDIS mobile application, artisans and builders can streamline their business transactions while accessing loans, insurance, and upskilling opportunities. This not only simplifies the hiring process for clients but also empowers ‘fundis’ to enhance their skills and expand their businesses. However, for the gig economy to reach its full potential in Kenya, several critical aspects need attention. Firstly, clear regulatory frameworks that recognize gig workers’ rights, including minimum wage, social security, and access to benefits, are imperative. These frameworks provide necessary legal protections, ensuring fair and just treatment of gig workers.
Promoting collective bargaining and encouraging the formation of gig worker associations or unions will enable gig workers to negotiate better working conditions and benefits with platforms and clients. This collective approach amplifies the voice of gig workers, leading to improved conditions and remuneration. Financial inclusion is another vital consideration. Granting gig workers easier access to financial services like affordable banking and insurance will stabilize their income and mitigate financial uncertainties. This step is crucial for ensuring the well-being and security of gig workers in a dynamic job market.
Upskilling and training programs tailored to the gig economy’s requirements are equally significant. Developing skills aligned with the demands of the gig landscape enhances employability and significantly impacts income potential. Continuous learning and upskilling cultivate a culture of growth and development, pivotal for the success of gig workers. Worker classification is a critical issue demanding attention. Clearly defining the criteria for distinguishing between independent contractors and employees will guarantee gig workers receive appropriate legal protections and benefits. This clarity is essential to uphold the rights of gig workers and provide them with the security they deserve.
Lastly, establishing safety nets for gig workers through portable benefits systems is paramount. This ensures gig workers have access to healthcare, retirement plans, and unemployment benefits they can carry across various platforms and jobs. These safety nets provide a sense of security and stability, addressing a major challenge of gig work – income unpredictability. To sustain and maximize the potential of the gig economy in Kenya, striking a balance between the inherent flexibility of gig work and the need for regulatory frameworks that ensure fair working conditions is crucial. By adopting and implementing the aforementioned recommendations, Kenya can pave the way for a more inclusive gig economy, empowering its youth and fostering sustainable development for the nation. The gig economy stands as a beacon of hope, illuminating a path towards a brighter, more empowered future for Kenya’s youth.
This article was written by members of the 2023 cohort of the Future Africa Scholars programme – Felix Duodu, Leigh Silako, Chrispine Erick Oloo, Kelopile Wessie, Javan Rolynce Otieno.