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Steps Kenyans believe will bridge inequality gap

Friday September 28 2018

POVERTY

Twaweza East Africa Senior Researcher Victor Rateng on September 26, 2018 releases the findings of a report on Kenyans' views on social status. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

PATRICK LANG'AT
By PATRICK LANG'AT
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More than half of Kenyans believe that hard work, rather than education, is what improves one's social status, a new study shows.

In a country where 95 percent believe the gap between the rich and the poor is “too large”, and 58 percent cite hard work as the key to changing their lives, only 17 percent cited education, with a paltry six percent citing the availability of a job.

Forty-eight percent of the respondents cited unemployment as one of the main reasons many households are poor, with injustice in society, lack of education, and laziness coming second, third, and fourth, respectively.

Dubbed “A fair slice?” the study by Twaweza East Africa on Kenyans’ views on poverty, fairness, and inequality looks at the country's economic and social empowerment policies.

“This indicates that escaping poverty and getting ahead are seen as different things: a job is what you need to escape poverty, and then, once you have a job, hard work is what gets you what you need to get ahead,” Mr Victor Rateng of Twaweza said.

INEQUALITY

The study was done between April 18 and May 15, and sampled 1,672 respondents based on data from Sauti za Wananchi, a mobile phone panel survey.

A December 2017 Oxfam International report said that 8,300 Kenyans (less than 0.1 percent) own more wealth than the bottom 99.9 percent (more than 44 million people), with the richest 10 percent earning an average 23 times more than the poorest 10 percent.

The report also predicted that Kenya’s millionaires will grow by 80 percent by 2027 — one of the fastest in the world — with 7,500 new millionaires being created.

In the Twaweza study, 85 percent of the respondents said they believe it is the government's responsibility to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.

Notably, six out of 10 Kenyans believe that inequality creates competition and encourages hard work.

To address the inequality, four out of 10 supported the creation of social safety nets like cash transfers to the elderly and government affirmative action funds for women and the youth.