BY LINET MINAYO
The unemployment rate doubled to 10.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, Labour and Social protection CS Simon Chelugui said on Friday.
Chelugui said that is compared to 5.2 per cent in the first quarter before reducing to 7.2 per cent in the 3rd quarter.
In a zoom conference with Labour and Protection parliamentary committee members, Chelugui said this is attributed to the partial opening up of the economy, which was witnessed in October – December 2020.
“The current containment measures put in place by the government to contain the spread of the pandemic are likely to result in loss of jobs in some key sectors of the economy which had started to recover from the adverse effect of the pandemic,” said Chelugui.
The sectors identified by the CS to be adversely affected will include transport, aviation-domestic passenger flights, hospitality and tourism, and the informal sector.
“The country is also witnessing work-related fatalities and casualties with the Ministry of Health reporting a spike in the number of COVID-19 new cases and fatalities,” said the CS.
As of April 12th 2021, Chelugui said, the country cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases were at 141,365 and casualties at 2,386.
The pandemic has also affected labour migration management across the globe because of restriction on travel.
He said with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenyan migrant workers have faced numerous challenges which have affected their livelihoods.
“A total of 748 distress cases from Kenyan migrant workers have been reported from 34 destination countries with 4,105 migrant workers repatriated back in the country,” the CS revealed.
The distress situation includes non-payment of salaries, loss of jobs, health and restricted movement, he said.
Jobs lost in 5 affected counties under the lockdown
Chelugui said the containment measures put in place by the government in the five counties is likely to negatively affect the livelihoods of many Kenyans due to a sharp decrease in incomes and employment.
“The effect will not only be felt in the five counties affected by the lockdown but is likely to spread to the other counties given the centrality of the affected region,” he told the parliamentary committee.
The service industry, especially transport, hotel and accommodation, arts, entertainment and recreation, will be most affected by the containment measures where people are likely to lose their livelihood.
He said the International Labour Organisation has been making projections on the number of working hours lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In its current modelled estimate, for Kenya, the projected number of working hours lost is 9.5 per cent per day,” the CS said.
Chelugui said from the 2020 economic survey, the total number of people who were working was 18,142,700 out of whom 4,574,658 are within the 5 counties under lockdown representing 25 per cent of the total working population in the country.
Similarly, Chelugui said, according to the 2020 Economic Survey, the total number of employees in the private sector was 2,063,100 out of whom 515,775 were in the 5 locked down counties.
The number of employees in the three key sectors in the 5 counties under lockdown is 20,000 for accommodation, hotel and food services, 18,475 in transport and storage; and 1,275 in the arts, entertainment and recreation.
A report received by the ministry from the Associations of Bouncers of Kenya indicates that 1,486 bouncers from the five counties have lost livelihood since the current containment measures were put in place.
The transport sector which employs approximately 92,500 workers has been severely affected by the increased curfew hours and lockdown of the five counties zoned area.
Similarly, Chelugui said, the aviation industry has also been hit hard with the total ban of domestic passenger flights across the country.
Approximately 80 per cent of registered aircraft in the country, have been grounded due to the travel restrictions in place to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chelugui was responding to questions from the members of the committee led by its chairperson Peter Mwathi and members Ronald Tanui (Bomet Central), Malulu Injendi (Malava), David Sankok (Nominated), Wilson Sosion (Nominated) and Tom Odege (Nyatike).
Others are; Caleb Amisi (Saboti), Gideon Kimutai (Chepalungu), and Gideon Terer (Nominated).
Chelugui said the most affected air operators are those that cater for passengers for tourism and business travel. As a result, employees in this industry are likely to lose their livelihoods, added the CS.
The pandemic has also adversely affected the informal sector operators in the country where the majority accounting for 59.1 per cent of the total employment is in retail trade, hotels and restaurants, said the minister.
According to the 2020 Economic Survey, the informal sector employs 15,051,600 workers out of which 3,762,900 employees in the sector are within the 5 locked down counties.
The increased curfew hours and travel restriction out of the five zoned areas is likely to worsen the situation leading to loss of livelihoods for the informal sector operators due to the sharp decline in income earnings.
Under the Employment Act, 2007, Section 40, an employer is required to give one month’s notice of intention to declare employees redundant and copy the same to the nearest labour office as well as the relevant trade union in the sector.
Since the lockdown in the five counties was announced, two weeks ago, employers have not yet started effecting redundancies; this information can only be available one month after the commencement of the latest lockdown in the five affected counties, Chelugui told the committee.
He said the county labour officers in Nairobi, Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu and Nakuru have been instructed to provide data on job losses in their counties as and when they obtain these statistics for necessary action.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Chelugui said, the ministry has continued receiving redundancy notices from formal sector employers while associations and welfare groups have been reporting job losses in the informal sector.
As of March 2021, the Labour Minister said, the total reported redundancies were 17,743 from 871 organizations, representing about 5.5 per cent of total wage employment in the formal sector and this excludes employees on unpaid leave and those on pay-cut, while 26,359 operators in the informal sector were reported to have lost their incomes.
The minister said a total of Sh 9,684,320 in terminal dues has been settled arising from disputes between employers and workers as of March 31, 2021.
Measures to alleviate the suffering
In response to the pandemic, Chelugui said, the ministry developed a cabinet memorandum on measures to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on jobs, the welfare of workers and the interests of employers.
The joint cabinet memorandum on measures undertaken to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the labour and employment sector was approved during the cabinet meeting held on February 25, 2021.
Among the key directives in the approved cabinet memo include:
- Development of modalities towards the establishment of a contributory unemployment insurance fund to cushion workers who lose their employment as a direct result of a crisis. The fund is expected to provide short-term relief to workers when they become unemployed.
- Development of modalities towards the establishment of a migrant workers welfare fund. The fund will be utilised to provide assistance and welfare services to migrant workers and their families.
- Work out modalities towards the appointment of honorary consuls and labour attaches in key labour destination countries to improve the provision of necessary consular assistance and protection of the labour rights of migrant Kenyan workers.
Enhancing Consular Services
The ministry, according to Chelugui, has initiated discussions with the ministry of foreign affairs on the appointment of honorary consuls and labour attaches in key labour destination countries (Canada, UK, Australia, Bahrain, Jeddah, Kuwait, and Iraq) to improve the provision of necessary consular assistance and protection of the labour rights of Kenyan migrant workers.
Towards it, Chelugui said, the Ministry will require Sh150 million on the appointment of labour attaches in three key labour destination countries in 2021/22 FY.
Establishment of migrant workers welfare fund
Chelugui said the main objective of the migrant workers’ welfare fund is to provide protection, welfare and assistance to Kenyan migrant workers during migration, stay in the destination country and upon return to the country.