The most popular jobs by Kenyans abroad

When Ken Musau flew to London late last year, he had high hopes of navigating with ease in UK’s labour market.

As it turned out, however, his experience was so far removed from the stories he had heard before of men and women who are making a tidy income from Britain, a country that saw sudden surge in work opportunities following Brexit.

“Wiki za kwanza hapa zilikuwa mbaya sana kwangu. Niliumia sana.  I was even contemplating flying back home to continue with my computer repair business in Nairobi,” he said.

But as fate would have it, Ken would soon receive a referral to a contact in the English capital who recruiting workers for various care jobs.

“Sitaki kukudanganya… I now attend to several clients working roughly 14 hours in a day on average,” he says pointing to the level of sacrifice anyone who is ready to take the leap of faith to work abroad should bear in mind.

Currently, he’s saving to enroll in nursing classes with a dream of working in UK’s healthcare system where his pay would go up multiple times from his current take home which he says he’s very happy about it.

Across the Atlantic, Job Otieno arrived in Montreal city, Quebec, Canada in late 2018 with driving as his only skill.

New in the Canadian city where a majority of the reidents are French speakers, Joab secured a job as an Uber driver. His dedication and driving skills soon won him admiration from the Canadian government, getting priority in permanent residency status processing after he volunteered with the country’s health ministry during the height of Covid-19 as a volunteer worker.

“I see Kenyans making fun of diaspora Kenyans in the name of ‘wanaosha wazee America/majuu,’ those moving to USA/UK or whatever developed nation be aware that a live-in carer or CNA makes at least Kes600,000 a month,” Elvis, who goes by @Elvis_Localman on Twitter and a big supporter of Kenyans seeking jobs abroad says.

“If you are in your 20s on such a job, you are likely to retire home and enjoy your hard work by the age of 45 or 50 with a heavy pack of the assured western pension, those trolling you majority will still be fighting to keep their office and government jobs at age 60 with loans shafting them left, right and center,” he adds.

A majority of the available job opportunities for the bulk of Kenyans living and working are largely what would pass as informal for Kenyans, who have been to college or university studying IT, Finance or other mainstream careers.

Factory workers, fruit pickers, dump truck drivers, security personnel, cleaners are some of the common jobs for the bulk of Kenyans who are now sending home billions of dollars every month.

Read also: The fog of war over Kenya’s top export

According to the Diaspora Remittances Survey 2021 by the Central Bank of Kenya, Kenyans working under human health and social work activities abroad account for the bulk of workers in foreign countries at 12 percent, followed by those in finance and insurance at 10 percent.

According to the industry survey information and communication, professional, scientific and technical activities and education services tied at eight percent as the source of income for Kenyans working overseas.

Kenyans living and working in the US and Canada account for the highest source of remittances to Kenya, accounting for about 60.1 percent of the total sum of funds sent into Kenya.

Europe contributed 18 percent and the rest of the world accounted for 22 percent of the total remittances.

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) collects data every month on remittance inflows through formal channels that including commercial banks and other authorized global money transfer service providers in Kenya. The reported amount, however, does not include remittances through informal channels made in-kind.

I have lived and worked in Turkey for over 25 years, Esther Wairimu, says before a call that she responds in fluent Turkish language.

Kenyans working in manufacturing industry accounted four percent on sectoral source of income among the diaspora according to the CBK.

“Nilienda nikaweka degree yangu kwa box. And that is what I advise Kenyans as I prepare them for factory jobs in Istanbul where packers, security, cleaners and other manual job openings are in abudance,” Esther tells those eyeing to go to Istanbul.

Other sectors that a significant number of Kenyans are working overseas are: mining and quarrying, water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities; domestic workers, agriculture, forestry, fishing, construction, accommodation and food service.

The CBK study shows that the majority of those earning annual incomes less than $2,000 are primarily young individuals with 45 percent of them aged under 30 years while those who earn more than $50,000 are aged between 31 – 45 years old (60 percent) and comprise mainly Kenyans in the US, Canada and other European countries.  

A majority of Kenyan workers in Europe, North America and Oceania left the country in pursuit of higher education while those in Asia and other African countries mainly left in search of jobs.

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