Understanding the Kenya Labour Market: What are the Top 5 Skills employers want

A person working. Image/KLMIS

What pops into your mind when you hear the term labour market?

Labour Market is simply looked at as the availability of employment and labour in a given economic environment. The Economic Times posits that the labour market functions with the demand and supply of labour.

The demand for labour usually increases when an economy suffices firms with high output, while labour supply is influenced by the size of the working population and skills.

Kenya is a lower-middle-income country, and demand in her labour market is low compared to labour supply. 

Statistical data indicates that about 60% of the total labour force in the country is composed of youth, but a majority, about 70% are unemployed. Young people, under the age of 35 years, account for about 80 percent of the country’s total population.


The unemployment rate in Kenya

The unemployment rate is a state in the labour market that defines the share of people, within the working population, who wants to work but cannot find jobs. 

The rate increases when people lose their jobs based on several factors including the economic downturn, and when the labor supply in the industry is larger than the number of jobs available.

According to the world bank report, the rate of unemployment in Kenya stood at 2.98 percent in 2020. This is a steady decrease from the previous years –indicating positive changes in the country’s labour market. 

What then could have caused these significant changes in labour demand?

The Kenya Labour Market Information System (KLMIS) suggests a decrease in the country’s unemployment rate due to the viability of emerging occupations. 

These occupations occur as the country embraces and keeps abreast of the changes in information and communication technology, which come with new skill sets, knowledge, abilities, and work activities different from the existing classification.

Firm managers aiming for improvement in performance and output will never leave out the following skills in their talent search shopping list;

Computer skillsForeign LanguageAdaptabilityReliabilityTeam player


Top 5 skills employers are looking for


Computer Skills

The labour market in Kenya has taken a different course with the emerging trends in technology. Top-notch careers require highly skilled workers with advanced computer skills such as information technology.

KLMIS states that 52 percent of employers looking for highly skilled labourers, name IT as one of the required skills, with 33 percent of those seeking middle-skilled workers requiring basic computer knowledge.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) a basic computer knowledge refer to the most common usages of a computer, which involves understanding the basic notions of computer manipulation; managing computer files, word processing, using spreadsheets and databases; creating presentations; finding information and communicating using computers; and being aware of social and ethical implications of Internet use.

The emerging occupation classification in Kenya Labour Market requires employees to have these basic skills for convenience in communication, leading to enhanced performance. 


Foreign Language

Knowing a foreign language is now a key skill in the Kenya labour market. 

Data from KLMIS shows that 61 percent of employers seeking middle-skilled workers and 50 percent requiring highly skilled workers want candidates with foreign language skills. 

A job seeker with the ability to speak more than one language (multilingual) has an advantage over others.

Business managers often look for ways to increase customers and one of the fastest ways to achieve this is to open the doors to consumers who speak other languages –writes Career Toll Belt.

Some of the careers in the Kenya labour market where foreign language skill is an asset include;

Communications/Marketing/Public Relations SpecialistBrand SpecialistProduct Localization SpecialistCustomer Service RepresentativeFlight AttendantSales RepresentativeTranslator/InterpreterBusiness Liaison OfficerRecruiterTour guide/hotel/bartender



Changes in socio-economic conditions and technology have rendered adaptability a significant skill in the Kenya labour market.

Employers are looking for candidates who can rapidly learn new skills and behaviours based on the changing working conditions. In 2020, for instance, a large number of companies were looking for employers who can effectively work remotely.

Adaptability is a soft skill that gives an employee the ability to communicate and create interpersonal relations leading to teamwork and operational efficiency. This is what employers are looking for to achieve success.

Statistics from KLMIS show that 40 percent of jobs requiring both high and middle-skilled workers stress adaptability as an asset skill. 



Kenya's labour market requires employees who are hardworking and dependable to an organization. 

Chron looks at reliability as the extent to which an individual or other entity may be counted on to do what is expected of him. It states that reliability is essential to employee performance.

Managers want to hire people who will carry the company’s image to future success, and since they will bestow much confidence in you, they want you to display high levels of reliability.

The qualities of a reliable employee include; planning, keeping track of his work, making follow-up and inquiries where necessary. 


Team player

KLMIS scale employers seeking middle-skilled labours with team spirit at 56 percent. Being a team player puts you a step higher than other candidates in the job market.

Team player skill within an organization results in teamwork. Teamwork is the collaborative effort of a group to achieve a common goal with efficiency and effectiveness. 

A good team player will often want to; offer help, actively listen, communicate, respect others, be a problem-solver, and celebrate teammates' successes. These are the qualities of a team player that employers are seeking. 


The Kenya Labour Market is picking pace with the growing trends in technology. There are several skills employers are looking for with regards to data, information, and commutation technology. These skills include numeracy, research, communication, among others. 

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