Survey: Half of slum dwellers have lost jobs to coronavirus

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 00:00 |
A Ministry of Health officer performs a mouth swab. Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG

Irene Githinji @gitshee

Almost half of Kenyans living in Nairobi’s low-income areas have lost their income owing to effects of the coronavirus pandemic and are struggling to make ends meet, a new TIFA research has shown.

The survey conducted in Huruma, Kibera, Mathare, Korogocho, Mukuru kwa Njenga, Kawangware also showed that the pandemic has had a great impact on the daily lives of 84 per cent of the residents while 43 per cent have completely lost income.

Among a range of impacts, by far the most common has been the partial or complete loss of earnings. Specifically, among those who had been earning prior to the crisis, almost all (96 per cent) reported that they are now earning either “very little” or “nothing” of what they had been earning before,” the report released yesterday indicated.

The survey also showed that 54 per cent of unemployment cases are largely attributed to the coronavirus disease.

The survey with a sample size of 579 and conducted between June 2 – 15 also showed that 94 per cent of residents living in the said areas have reduced their spending on food and drinks as a result of coronavirus.

Similarly, 42 per cent of the respondents said they are afraid that hunger will soon be a major challenge for them, if the coronavirus disease continues to spread. 

“Measures taken to contain coronavirus have affected households in many ways, including job loss, loss of remittances, higher commodity prices, heightened insecurity, and disruption to health care services and education,” the survey found.

 “While these impacts have affected most households across the country, they appear to be more profound and longer-lasting amongst low income-earners in more congested urban areas who are inherently more vulnerable,” it added.

Increased hunger

Only about one-fifth of all respondents who had been working earned more than Sh20,000 per month before the restrictions to counter the virus were implemented.

Among those currently earning anything, almost all are earning less than they previously were.

Regardless of respondents’ employment status, the virus has affected them a great deal.

The survey found that 69 per cent of the respondents have had reduced earnings since the outbreak of the virus, 43 per cent have completely lost incomes due to job loss while 22 per cent said they have experienced increased hunger.

Another 13 per cent said their lives have changed owing to a reduction in real income due to an increase in cost of living.

Some 20 per cent of the residents said that they have had to reduce their spending on rent due to loss of earnings while 18 percent and 10 per cent respectively said clothing and entertainment respectively.

On the overall, only about one in thirteen of those who were able to save any earnings before coronavirus outbreak can do so currently.

Further, while those employed have the highest incidence of current savings, this  decline applies to them as well.

The findings

The report showed that 80 per cent of those living in Nairobi’s low income areas could save before coronavirus but that has now been eroded.

Currently, only six per cent said they are able to save

Of those earning Sh10,000 or less, 75 per cent said they could save before the pandemic but now only 5 percent are able to save. For those earning Sh10,000 and above, 85 per cent said they were able to save but now only 6 per cent said they are able to save.

 As the virus continues to spread, at least 28 per cent of the residents said they are afraid of losing jobs while 9 per cent said they may not be able to pay rent in coming days.

“The nearly universal loss of income among those who had been working before coronavirus has meant not just a reduction in savings for nearly all households for which this had been possible in the past, but also in expenditure on what may be considered as essential items, starting with food,” the survey found.

This also means that many households may have begun adopting such survival strategies as the sale of personal items and productive assets such as land resulting in reduced future income opportunities.

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