Like other parts of the world, people in the East African country of Kenya are fast losing jobs due to the contraction of the economy arising out of the lockdown enforced to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Many who were regaling in riches just months ago are now fighting for meals and bare necessities. The jobs, considered dirty like cleaning streets, unclogging drains are now much sought after, as long as they bring some money to buy food.
Nairobi-based Lucy Wanjiku, holding a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, was working at a five-star restaurant earning enough money to shoulder responsibilities of her two siblings and a six-year-old daughter.
“I used to pay around 30,000 Kenya shillings ($300) like rent and spend 50,000 Kenyan shillings ($500) to buy other household stuff every month. I could still save and live a happier life after paying the school fee of children,” she said.
After the outbreak of the pandemic in March, the hotel and restaurant industry took the first hit.
“No one was visiting our hotel. We were asked to stay home for two-months on paid leave. But after they informed us that we are no more employed. The restaurant had to shut down and more than 30 people lost their jobs,” she said.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Wanjiku said she has moved from a two-bedroom house to a single room, with her siblings and her daughter.
Timothy Otieno, 26, feels lucky for having a government job. Just a few months ago, he was loathed by friends for doing dirty jobs like unclogging drains.
“Now everyone is battling for these jobs which were considered “dirty. People are willing to clean streets, unclog drainage systems. Youth are willing to do anything to get money,” he said.
According to a report released by the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics on Sept. 1, the unemployment rate has doubled to 10.4% as compared to 5.2% in March. As many as 1.7 million Kenyans have lost jobs.
Sharp drop in listing of jobs
The number of employed individuals in Kenya has shrunk from 17.8 million to 15.9 million. More worrying is that the age bracket affected by unemployment is from 20-29 years.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the employment sector hard across the world with job losses being recorded in millions. The Kenyan job market has not been spared by the scourge. There has been a drop in the number of job listings by career websites,” said Emmanuel Mutuma, CEO of popular career website BrighterMonday.
Economist and CEO of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Kwame Owino, said in addition to job losses, there has been underutilization of labor due to COVID-19 related restrictions.
“I attribute the measures of COVID-19 to that [job losses], as it affected people’s ability to go to work on a day to day basis,” he said.
On the effects on youth, he said since this section of the population is employed largely by the informal sector, they have taken a disproportionate hit, which has the potential to increase the crime rate in the country.
Owino said with Kenya relaxing COVID-19 mitigation measures some businesses have picked up with most people utilizing digital applications in the delivery of goods and services which might improve the employment status if the East African country.
According to the US-based Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Kenya has so far reported 35,103 pandemic cases with 597 deaths.