9 out of 10 Kenyans uncertain of return to work as Covid-19 pandemic bites

Nine out of ten Kenyans are unclear of when they would be returning to work following disruptions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey.

The new survey conducted between May 2 and May 9 by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows a further 2.8 percent of workers expect to stay out of work for up to six months while 0.9 percent of respondents do not anticipate a return-to-work.

However, the survey does not disclose the percentage of Kenyans who have lost jobs due to the pandemic or those with a recorded reduction of income streams inspite of the expected devastation on livelihoods.

“These inevitable measures and the looming uncertainty about the disease have had knock-on effects on businesses and workers’ incomes. Expectedly, a number of business owners have introduced several cost-cutting measures aimed at ensuring that their businesses remain afloat,” said Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani during the launch of the survey.

“The enterprises have had to delay investments, purchases of goods and the hiring of workers, while others have resorted to salary cuts for their employees, temporary layoffs and in some cases total closure. This continues to have adverse effects on incomes, particularly for informal and casual workers.”

Half of Kenyans absent from their places of work have pinned their leave to stay away/lock out measure initiated as a result of the pandemic.

Other factors attributed for absenteeism include a temporal slack in work at 16.6 percent, temporary layoff/work reduction at 13.4 percent, work seasonality and leave at 4.3 percent each and lack of transport at 0.2 percent.

On average, each working Kenyan has reported the shedding of 13 hours from each work week with employees in education and accommodation services marking the sharpest cut in output at 40 and 30 hours respectively.

While omitting the impact on incomes and job loss, the survey has quantified labour force participation in the period at 56.8 percent while tabulating those disengaged from the labour force at 43.2 percent.

According to data from the latest KNBS quarterly labour report covering the period to December 2019, the country’s unemployment rate stood at 4.9 percent or an equivalent 929,595 jobless Kenyans.

The rate of unemployment is expected to rise as a result of the ongoing pandemic which has seen firms undertake cost cutting measures including pay-cuts and redundancies to cope with the economic slowdown.

The KNBS is expected to continue its assessment of the Covid-19 impact on households later this month when it carries out its second wave of findings from May 23.

The first wave of survey has covered 15,840 individuals drawn from both the formal and informal sectors.