Study: Covid-19 measures hit informal workers hardest

Wednesday May 20 2020
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People walk from Kibera slums to Industrial Area in Nairobi in search of work. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ALLAN OLINGO

The government’s Covid-19 containment measures have pushed nearly half of Kenyans out of work, a new survey shows. The study paints a picture of the havoc the pandemic is wreaking in the labour market.

This was revealed Tuesday by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani during the launch of the Report on Socio-Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Households. The survey was conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics early this month.

These workers, most of whom are in the informal sector, have been locked out of any meaningful economic activity since March, when the country recorded its first Covid-19 case.

HIGH RISK AREAS

A majority (49.9 per cent) reported they had been asked to stay away or found themselves locked out by their employers following the government’s directives.

The government in March introduced a raft of measures including banning of all passenger flights, temporary closure of bars, suspension of learning in all education institutions, dusk-to-dawn curfew as well as cessation of movement in and out of some high-risk areas.

According to Mr Yatani, these 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. The enterprises have had to delay investments, purchases of goods and hiring of workers, while others have resorted to salary cuts for their employees, temporary layoffs and in some cases total closure,” he said, adding that informal and casual workers were the most affected.
According to the survey, women have been most affected by the jobs downturn, with about 65.3 per cent of the male respondents reporting they were in the labour force, compared to more than half (51.2 per cent) of the females who were outside the labour force days before the survey was conducted between May 2 and May 9.

ENT DEFAULTS

The report shows uncertainty about their jobs is growing as the country continues to register more coronavirus cases and tougher measures are announced periodically.

“Nine out of 10 persons who were absent from work due to stay-away or lock-down guidelines were not sure when they would return to work,” the report said.

It also reveals that income stoppage has curtailed their financial ability to cater for their health, transport and housing needs.

On average, the cost of transport rose by 51.7 per cent, with Migori County recording the highest jump while Turkana had the least at 77.2 per cent and 24.4 per cent respectively.

The survey also showed that nationally, 30.5 per cent of households were unable to pay rent on the date agreed with their landlords, while 21.5 per cent who usually pay on time were unable to honour their obligations in April.

“Reduced income/earnings was cited by majority (52.9 per cent) of the households as the main reason for their inability to pay rent. Only a small proportion (8.7 per cent) of households received waiver/relief from their landlords for the same month,” Mr Yatani said.

On health, the findings show that 17 per cent of the households reported having at least one member with a pre-existing medical condition. About 12.4 per cent of households had a member who had sought health services during the period under review.

The survey showed Kenyans possess knowledge on Covid-19, with 99.4 per cent adults of age 18 years and above having heard about the disease.