2020, the year millions lost jobs - Beaking Kenya News

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Wednesday, 30 December 2020

2020, the year millions lost jobs


When the clock ticked 12.00am on January 1 2020, Kenyans were abuzz with activity and craze of the new year.

Little did they know of the pandemic that was on its way and the numerous job losses that would follow.

When the Health CS announced the first confirmed coronavirus in the country,in March,  it triggered mass panic among Kenyans and amid fears of a major outbreak.

President Uhuru Kenyatta then announced a series of measures to slow the spread of the deadly virus.

A curfew was imposed, corona hotspots like Nairobi and the coastal region were sealed off for three months, international travel was temporarily suspended for five months among other measures.

Kenyans had to live in the new normal, with the reality of Covid-19 which triggered massive job losses.

In the first three months of the pandemic, more than 1.7 million Kenyans had lost their jobs according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) .

Josephine Mwende used to work at a construction firm as an assistant. When the pandemic hit, her company downsized and she lost her job.

"It was a very trying time for me as I did not have any side hustle but I had to rise up and start a small business of selling utensils and bags which I got from Kamukunji,"she said.

The tourism and hospitality sector was among the most hit amid suspension of international travel and county lockdowns which affected international arrivals and domestic tourism.

Destinations such as Nairobi, the region's business and economic hub and a leading MICE destination, and Mombasa, a beach holiday destination, were hard hit.

At least 3.1 million workers in the sector lost their jobs according to a survey by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) conducted between September and October.

The sector had the highest percentage of closures during the period under review at 92 per cent.

As for micro enterprises, at least 75 per cent closed shop as Covid-19 ravaged the economy, the survey shows.

The flower sector was also hurt with tens of flower farm workers sent home while thousands stared at job losses as lock-downs prevailed in key export markets.

With interruption in freight and the collapse of the Dutch auction, farmers opted to dispose off flowers worth millions of shillings and close down various departments.

As the year unfolded,  overall employment to population ratio in the country dipped.

The working age population was at 57 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 compared to 64.4 per cent in the first quarter, KNBS data shows.

The number of unemployed Kenyans grew 58.6 per cent to 1.8 million from 961,666 in the first quarter.

The highest proportion of the unemployed was recorded in the age groups of 20-24 and 25-29 each registering over 20 per cent, most who are recent graduates.

"I'm no longer looking for a job as I have been sending tens of applications since January and they have bore no fruit, come March and the pandemic hit I lost hope completely seeing the millions who lost their jobs," said Ben Opiyo, who graduated last year with a degree in journalism.

Opiyo said he is no longer on a path to employment but thinking of a business to start to become self-employed.

Small to medium size enterprises that ultimately bear the weight of developing a nation  and employ the bigger percentage of Kenyans shut down in numbers as the pandemic persisted.

According to the KEPSA survey, 13 per cent of businesses shutdown during the pandemic and an equivalent one enterprise for every ten shut are yet to resume operations.

The Federation of Kenya Employers estimates that at least 1.7 million jobs were lost in Kenya between March and August 2020 from 604 firms.

Most of those laid-off may never be reabsorbed again.

Stimulus packages promised to business owners are yet to get to most of those affected.

The government project to employ youth to do menial jobs such as cleaning up drainage was just but a drop in the ocean.

The Sh700 daily wage for the youth involved in the Kazi Mtaani initiative, that was later reduced to Sh500, is hardly enough for many to survive on.

The promises of an industrialised nation and 800,000 jobs created every year, according to the Jubilee manifesto, were put to a halt by the pandemic.

The labour market disruption posed by Covid-19 worsened the challenge of youth unemployment, a nightmare for any government because it translates to a decline in fiscal capacity.

However according to Jacqueline Mugo CEO,Federation of Kenya Employers, there is a positive note from this ‘new normal’ as it has revolutionised work and there is more leaning towards technology, an opportunity that can  be embraced to strengthen enterprises.

"This is a time for all stakeholders to work together and ensure that the best environment for businesses to recover is created. Support for startups through tax and regulatory incentives would go a long way in ensuring that the world recovers and that decades of jobs creation do not go to waste," said Mugo.

According to the International Labour Organization, nearly half of the jobs that had been created over the past half a decade have been lost due to deteriorating business environment.

From start-ups to established businesses the pandemic has necessitated the implementation of austerity measures to minimize cost of production to stay afloat.

Globally 400 ,million jobs have been lost according to latest figures by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

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