Kenyan workers hope forbetter pay as COVID-19 cases decline

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020 00:00 |
A woman holds a chicken inside a classroom converted into a chicken coop in Mwea, Kirinyaga County, Kenya. (Xinhua/Chrispinus Omar)


For the past five months, John Njuguna, who works with an insurance firm in Nairobi, has been receiving 65 percent of his pay after his employer reduced it, citing tough economic conditions occasioned by COVID-19.

Njuguna had to adjust his lifestyle as the pay cut was implemented suddenly at a time when getting additional income was impossible.

"I have had to defer buying things like clothes and shoes. Luckily, schools have been closed," he said on Tuesday.

His predicament is shared by thousands of other workers in both formal and informal sectors in the east African nation, who saw their pay cut by between 20 and 80 percent.

From media to aviation, retail, agriculture, hospitality, health, security and manufacturing sectors, companies implemented pay cuts to stay afloat.

And since it was not known when the pandemic would end, the pay cuts have remained indefinite.

But as the COVID-19 cases decline significantly in Kenya and economic activities pick up, many workers are hopeful that their employers would restore their full pay.

On Monday, Kenya recorded 102 COVID-19 cases in a downward trend that has persisted in the last two weeks. The east Africa nation's total confirmed cases stood at 35,205.

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently declared that the country is steadily flattening the curve. Business activities are also gathering momentum, with data from various government and private sector agencies indicating a surge in economic activities.

In the aviation sector, for instance, both international and local flights have resumed, giving hope to the tourism industry.

Similarly, in the hospitality sector, meetings are slowly resuming as participants adhere to COVID-19 measures of wearing masks and social media.

Mobile money transactions notched up in July to a record 450 billion shillings (about 4.2 billion U.S. dollars), up from a low of 3 billion dollars in April, according to the Central Bank, an indication of improved business activities.

"I am looking forward to the time I will earn my full pay and I hope it will be soon," said Lorna Mukhwana, a security guard in Kitengela.

She is employed by a private company to guard an estate in the sprawling suburb. Before the pandemic, she earned 101 dollars, but this was slashed to 74 dollars after residents asked to pay less a month due to economic challenges.

"The residents would revert to normal contributions at the end of October. It is one of the best things that would happen to my family. We are living on a constrained budget," said Mukhwana, whose husband works as a motorbike taxi operator in the suburb.

Journalists are also among thousands of workers hoping for better pay as economic activities resume. Most of Kenya's media workers have seen their pay cut by between 5 and 35 percent.

But the hundreds of Kenya's formal workers had not only lost part of their pay, but some firms have also withdrawn other benefits including medical insurance and pension.

According to the Federation of Kenya Employers, thousands of workers have seen their medical covers withdrawn as firms see their incomes drop.

"A fall in COVID-19 cases has huge implications on economic activities thus people's income. That is why the decline offers hope, that the tough times are soon going to be over," said Ernest Manuyo, a lecturer at Pioneer Institute in Nairobi. (Xinhua)

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