Atwoli: Focus on informal workers’ needs
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli has warned that the ballooning employment in the informal sector is a time bomb waiting to explode unless urgently addressed by the government.
The veteran trade unionist warned that the millions of workers in the informal sector are never provided with medical insurance, pensions, loan facilities and job security, which he said posed a great security threat.
Atwoli said the government needs to move fast to offer maximum protection such as pension to the millions of individuals finding jobs in the informal sector in Kenya.
He said that the number of people being employed in the informal sector in Kenya, like any other African country, is on a great increase, creating the need for urgent interventions.
“A grave concern that demands our attention is the ballooning informal sector in Africa with millions of workers finding themselves in precarious employment without the protection and benefits that formal employment provides,” Atwoli said during the opening of the fifth International Trade Union Congress (ITUC)-Africa in Nairobi.
The congress was officially opened by President William Ruto who disclosed that his government has embarked on various projects, such as the affordable housing scheme, ward digital hubs, and his foreign trips aimed at creating jobs for millions of the unemployed youth.
The Head of State disclosed that the affordable housing scheme has been able to create 120, 000 jobs in the last eight months alone.
“It is a robust programme, not because we are looking for houses but because the housing sector will create jobs for millions of people.
He disclosed that a bill would soon be introduced in the National Assembly to ensure that jobs in the digital sector are available to all qualified Kenyans, including those residing in the village.
The National Government Constituency Development Fund Bill will pave the way for creation of ICT hubs in every ward in a bid to create jobs.
And on his frequent trips abroad, President Ruto disclosed that he intends to lobby foreign countries to absorb more than 500, 000 jobless Kenyans between now and 2027. “The best way to stimulate economic growth is to increase income and have more savings. This can be attained by having more of our men and women engaged in earning activities,” said Dr Ruto.
Atwoli on his part, called on the government to strategize and find innovative solutions to integrate the informal sector into formal economy, providing workers with the dignity and security they deserve.
“We must therefore be intentional about making significant investment in research to understand the changing landscape of work because, like they say, knowledge is power, and as unions, we must be equipped with the insights needed to advocate effectively for the rights of our members,” he implored.
The trade unionist challenged his colleagues in the labour movement to lobby for a legislation to ensure fair wages, decent working conditions, and the protection of casual workers.
He said that unions must evolve and fight to remain relevant in this digital era by inventing new approaches towards membership drive that is so sophisticated and organized for their members’ sustainability.
“The well-being of our workers should not be compromised for short-term gains because social protection measures are not only a mark of a civilized society but also an investment in the stability and resilience of our workforce,” told participants at the congress that opened on Tuesday and is scheduled to end today.