Kenyans to mark second Labour Day under Covid curbs, record job losses

 Kenyans to mark second Labour Day under Covid curbs, record job losses

Workers union leaders at a past Labour Day fete. This year’s Labour Day will be market at a time when milllions of Kenyans have lost jobs and are experiencing hard times owing to Covid-19 economic fall out. Photo / Courtesy.

For the second year running, Kenya will be marking the worker’s day in subdued fashion due to Covid-19 curbs that restrict public gatherings.

Traditionally Labour Day in Kenya has always been celebrated in huge public gatherings with pomp and color, with leaders promising hope to workers.

However just like it was in last year, this year’s Labour Day is worse, given the huge losses that the country has suffered with millions of workers, mostly the youth having lost their jobs due to the pandemic, which is now in its second year.

Whereas current containment measures are set to be lifted by end of May, the country’s positivity rate remains high, signaling possibility of extending the curbs to help flatten the new infections curve.

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Besides travel restrictions into and out of the disease infected zone comprising of Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and Nakuru counties, the area is under 8pm–4am curfew unlike the rest of the country which is observing 10pm–4am travel lockdown for non-essential service providers.

Public gatherings, including celebrations, are currently banned across the country.

During the 2020 Labour Day celebrations, President Uhuru Kenyatta projected that more than half a million Kenyans would lose their jobs by the end of the year with the informal sector and casual laborers being hit the hardest.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics over 1.7 million people ended up losing their jobs owing to economic fallout sparked by the pandemic.

The hospitality, education and aviation sector were the first casualties with massive job losses following rollout of Covid-19 containment measures such as travel restrictions, and stay at home orders that saw thousands of businesses closed.

In Kenya, the highest population of the unemployed has remained between the ages of 20-24 and 25-29 registering joblessness rates of 22.8 per cent and 21.7 per cent respectively.

The countries hospitality, education, and transport sectors remain the worst hit industries by the pandemic to date.

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Currently, hotels and restaurants in the disease infected zone are providing take away services only even as bars remain shut. In the height of the pandemic last year, a significant number of private schools closed indefinitely as the proprietors turned to other forms of investments.

Public transport vehicles across Kenya are obligated to carry 60 per cent of their capacity in an effort to ensure they meet social distancing requirements.

As Kenya marks the worker’s day on May 1, a section of Kenyans through Haki Africa are urging the government to address unemployment, and help provide sustainability programmes to those who lost their jobs due to Covid, saying that they have nothing to celebrate about.

The International Labour Organization estimates that about 470 million jobs will need to be created in order to absorb new entrants to the labour market by 2030.

A February survey by Twaweza East Africa shows that six in ten Kenyans could not afford a three square meal.

The research indicated food reserves in six out of ten homes could barely last a week, and two out of ten homes had no food at all.

In a study conducted by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKF) in August 2020 to establish the impact of Covid-19 on enterprises revealed that businesses were struggling with depressed cash flow and finances.

On Gross Domestic Product, according to the governmental data, Kenya’s GDP contracted by one per cent in 2020.

Considering the same scenario, the forecasts pointed out a strong rebound for the Kenyan economy in 2021, with an expected 6.9 per cent growth of the GDP.



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