Majority of Kenyan employees still earning below minimum wage – Report

Majority of Kenyan employees are still earning way below the set minimum wage, indicating a resistance to wage laws and lack of enforcement in the country.

This is according to the 2022 SweepSouth Report on Pay and Working Conditions for Domestic Workers which surveyed 1,000 domestic workers in the country in compared to 25, 000 workers who were surveyed in South Africa.

Luke Kannemeyer, SweepSouth’s Chief Operating Officer said the finsings puts a large amount of pressure on domestic workers, 70% of whom head up single parent homes, and 83% of whom are the main earners in the family, financially supporting an average of three dependents.

“The past year’s massive increases in transport and food costs have made it even harder for domestic workers to make ends meet,” said Kannemeyer, adding that indebtedness also appears to be on the rise, with nearly three out of four of our respondents saying they are in debt, and around 40 percent feeling hopeless about being able to pay that debt back.”

The pandemic’s continued impact was evident in the 69 percent of Kenyan domestic workers who lost their jobs in the last year. Reasons for this include semigration – where employers move to different cities as people now live and work anywhere – and the fact that employers can simply no longer afford domestic workers, a result of COVID-19, the knock-on effects of the war in Ukraine, and the pressures felt by escalating food prices around the world.

The survey further revealed Kenyan workers are more likely to face abuse in their workplace than their South African counterparts. While rates of physical abuse were similar in both countries, Kenyan respondents are 62 percent more likely to face verbal abuse and almost four times more likely to face sexual abuse.

Also key among the findings was that that a high number of domestic workers in Kenya spend more than an hour travelling in one direction to get to work. This indicates having to leave home very early or reach home late, which could pose a safety threat. In the long run, the exhaustion from these commutes may have a negative impact on their mental and physical well-being, with the former continuing to be a concern in addition to the worries about the current high cost of living.

This year’s report also highlighted that 54 percent of domestic workers knew someone who had passed away because of COVID-19. A significant majority of respondents from both Kenya and South Africa said they had been tested for COVID-19 at some point, with close to 9 out of 10 receiving their test for free. This points to a relatively successful public health response within both countries.

Other key findings showed that;

-69 percent of domestic workers lost their jobs in the last year, with 31% indicating that their employer could not afford to pay them anymore

-Domestic workers are spending more on food, rent and electricity

-The deficit between earnings and basic expenses has grown by close to 30 percent, compared to last year

-The number of domestic workers’ saving has dropped by 13 percent over the past year, with 25 percent of those surveyed stating that they do not have sufficient income to save

-73 percent spend more than an hour travelling in one direction to their place of work

-13 percent work more than 10 hours a day, and 11 percent work seven days a week

-73 percent are in debt and 39 percent feel hopeless about being able to pay it back

“We went into this survey knowing that the numbers would paint a grim picture,” said Aisha Pandor, SweepSouth CEO.

“These past few years have been trying times and the recent increase in the cost of food, fuel, transport, and more is felt the hardest by those who already have little to spend. This in turn, affects mental health, physical health and so much more. As a platform and company that advocates for the rights of domestic workers, we will continue to lend a voice to this sector of society, educate our clients and assist those who use our platform in new and innovative ways,” said Pandor.

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