Report: Covid job losses hit a million mark

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
Kenya Airways
A Kenya Airways plane in the sky. PHOTO/FILE

Fred Aminga and Mercy Mwai

 For Kennedy Kamau, a former banker, life has never been the same since the Covid-19 struck the country in mid-March.

“I am one among the over 300 people who were laid off by the bank during this period.

I briefly joined the rank of youths who used to borrow bus fare in a growing statistics,” he said.

Kamau, who was able to fend for his family without much struggle due to his well-paying job at a local bank, found himself jobless when the pandemic hit the country.

Today, he is among an estimated one million Kenyans who have lost their jobs due to the effects of Covid 19, as revealed in a report released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) yesterday.

Quarterly labour force report shows that unemployment surged to 1.8 million Kenyans from 961,666 in the first quarter during the period characterised by mega job losses on the back of Covid-19 shocks.

Kenya’s unemployment rate now stands at 10.4 per cent from 5.2 per cent in March while the employment to population ratio hit 57.7 per cent from 64.4 per cent as more Kenyan youths remained unemployed while those who were hitherto gainfully employed joined the bandwagon.

“Unemployment rate, measured based on the strict definition, increased to 10.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, compared to 5.2 per cent recorded in the first quarter of 2020,” the report.

In its second quarter labour report, KNBS estimates show that employed Kenyans shrunk to 15,870,357 from 17,586,961 in the first quarter with fewer employment opportunities.

The rate was also higher than the 4.7 per cent registered in the same quarter of 2019, according to the statistics bureau. 

“Highest proportion of the unemployed was recorded in the age groups 20-24 and 25-29, each registering over 20 per cent,” said KNBS in the report.

“The same age groups also had the highest increase of over 10 per cent each in unemployment over the 3 months reference period,” KNBS said.  

In an interview yesterday, Kamau however, said he has been able to get a back up plan to fend for his family.

“I am lucky I have something to fall back to in terms of pension and ideas. I have since started an M-Pesa and agency business to fend for my family.”

Sends home

Those deemed as being long-term unemployed, or those individuals with continuous unemployment, sometimes extending for more than a year, increased by 173,704 to 551,563 persons.

Release of the report comes at a time when most companies in the tourism, transport, horticulture, communication and education sectors have been badly hit by the pandemic and forced to lay off employees to continue staying afloat.

Already, over 600 companies have laid off workers since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) warns it is difficult to ascertain how long the coronavirus-triggered shocks will last.

Chinese contractor building the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) sent home 4,013 Kenyans and 471 Chinese expats on unpaid leave due to the coronavirus crisis.

Kenya Airways was also forced to send home hundreds of employees due to the travel restrictions imposed by the government in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.  

Major hotels, among them Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, which own the iconic Norfolk in Nairobi, Tribe Hotel, Ole Sereni and DusitD2 were also forced to shut since March when flights were suspended and major restrictions imposed.

On the other hand, thousands of teachers employed in private schools have lost their jobs as the institutions have either closed or been forced to venture into other businesses.

Report also shows that the inactive labour force described as persons who did not hold a job during the period in review and did not seek work, increased by three per cent to seven million during the same period. 

KNBS says the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on both unemployment and underemployment in the country since the first case was registered in Kenya.

Corona has negatively impacted the Kenyan economy as seen in the performance of the financial markets, disruption of global supply chains, volatility of the Kenyan currency, reduction in diaspora remittances, and reversal of prior monetary and fiscal policies.

The report indicates that the highest proportion of the unemployed is among the most active Kenyans aged between 20 and 24 and 25 and 29 whose unemployment rates are 22.8 and 21.7 per cent, respectively.

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