How viable are labor-intensive investments?
There is a raging debate about introducing labor-intensive investments instead of capital-intensive investments to reduce youth unemployment in Kenya. More than 500,000 jobs must be created each year. The lingering question is how viable this is in today’s age of technology.
Labour-intensive investment occurs when products and services are produced primarily by human workers. Special machines and tools can also be used, but overall it requires creativity and human effort to produce the product or service.
Capital-intensive investment is a productive process that primarily requires fixed assets, machinery, capital, and factories to produce. The million dollar question is how to employ labor for production and stay competitive in this age of mechanization and advanced technology. What areas should we focus on? Here are some success stories.
In India, the National Manufacturing Policy identifies employment-intensive industries like textiles and garments, leather and footwear, gemstones and jewelry, and food processing. In fact, India is a labor surplus country and it is its most important resource. Is this a domain we could copy?
Less developed economies like Kenya should favor more labor intensive businesses because as a low income economy we cannot afford to invest in expensive capital. We need to focus on labor-intensive agriculture to reduce food insecurity, embrace mining, and focus on hospitality and catering.
By partnering with organizations like the African Development Bank, we could reduce our overreliance on food imports by changing our domestic production model.
Now that Kenya is a developing infrastructure, we should try to adopt labour-intensive methods of construction which involve the use of an appropriate mix of labor and machinery, with a preference for labor where it is technically feasible and economically viable, without compromising the quality of the product (roads, houses). In this way, our young people could end up with a salary for their work.
When these policies are finally in place to allow the economy to absorb more young people, we have to come to terms with our ways. We need to change the way we spend our money on a personal level. As we consume, we must have a long-term vision.
We must stop making statements while spending, especially on imports that we could do without. At the personal, family, clan or village level, we need to change the way we show our success.
We must channel the available resources towards creating jobs for their young people without depending on the government. If every family, clan or village created a job or two for young people, the effect would be enormous.
There is a need to rethink how we define and demonstrate success. For example, instead of importing a fuel-guzzling luxury car as a symbol of status and achievement and to announce our arrival, we should rather import machinery and employ at least one person.
By importing large cars and other consumables, we lose currency and export labor. By importing machinery, there is a chance of employing one or two young people.
Instead of building a 10 bedroom monument in the village where no one lives to make a statement, build a small factory and employ a few young people.
As the people of Kenya, starting with our elite, we need to change our spending point.
We should buy Kenyan products as much as possible to keep money circulating within our borders and only import production lines that will add value to our raw materials, thus employing the youth.
More importantly, we must train enough manpower in health care and care for export. Regardless of the level of education, we should professionalize housekeeping and accompanying staff to do the simple things that overseas guests are not able to do on their own.
We should endow our young people with virtues such as patience, compassion (to understand what the person is going through), caring, reliability and loyalty.
Another level with potential is the nursing assistant who provides care to patients in their homes, including monitoring their health, treating wounds, performing tests and administering medication. In addition to the primary medical training they undergo, they need empathy, communication, collaboration and flexibility.
Above them are licensed practical nurses who provide routine care to sick, injured or disabled patients. They are trained to coordinate and assist physicians and registered nurses. They monitor patients and record vital signs.
The highest ranked nurses in this category are registered nurses who have more advanced training and can perform more complex types of care directly to patients without necessarily being supervised by a doctor or doctor.
Just as we have 40 classified export processing zones in Nairobi, Voi, Athi River, Kerio Valley, Mombasa and Kilifi in various stages of development by private and public zone developers/operators, we should have training of health care providers of health for export.
In this way, we will avoid unprofessional ways of sending our young people abroad, sometimes into dangerous hands. It will be the game changer that will help employ some of our youth and bring foreign currency to Kenya.