Survey shows most women locked out of decent jobs

Tuesday, December 5th, 2023 03:07 | By
Women work at a cloths washing yard in Kibera Estate in the outskirts of the Nairobi Central Business District. PHOTO/Bernard Malonza
Women work at a cloths washing yard in Kibera Estate in the outskirts of the Nairobi Central Business District. PHOTO/Bernard Malonza

More women than men in the country hold jobs that do not meet decent work indicators, findings of a new survey show.

The survey conducted by University of Nairobi (UoN) researchers in collaboration with Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP) shows that at least 57 per cent of women and 48 per cent hold jobs that do not meet any of the seven ‘decent work indicators’ as outlined by the International Labor Organisation (ILO).

Presenting the findings of the survey, UoN researcher, Phyllis Mumia Machio said based on the ILO definition, decent work was measured using presence of seven indicators namely earning minimum wage, decent working time, paid annual leave, employer contribution to social security, employer contribution to health insurance, trade union membership, and written employment contract.

“Only 1 per cent of women and 2 per cent of men hold jobs that meet all of the seven ‘decent work indicators” Men are more likely to hold jobs that meet some (between two and six) of the indicators than women,” said Machio.

The findings also show that only 11 per cent of women are in employment with minimum wages and the remainder 89 per cent not in a decent work environment compared to 21 per cent men in minimum wage employment.

“Minimum wage is set by the Government and the lowest you can be paid is Sh15,000 but not everyone is able to pay this amount. Some companies have low income and cannot pay its workers the Sh15,000,” she explained.

Informal sector

Lack of higher education, lack of quality and affordable childcare, and a high share of informal sector work are the three main barriers to women’s participation in decent work in Kenya.

Machio stated that Government policies are required to address these three key barriers, for instance scaling up higher education loans programme to encourage more tertiary education, providing public childcare and regulate and subsidize private childcare services as well as supporting businesses created through government programs to remain formal.

She said the survey established that Kenya has made good progress in promoting women’s participation in the labor market, with the female labour force participation rate rising to 75.6 per cent in 2015-16, up three percentage points from the late 1990s. Machio, however, said the impressive female labour force participation rate does not reveal much about the type of employment opportunities available to women upon joining the labour force.

“In 2022, only 39.3 per cent of working women were employed in the modern wage sector compared to 60.7 per cent of working men. Equally, women were more likely than men to be engaged in vulnerable employment,” she said.

Domestic service

Approximately 59 per cent of women were employed either in agriculture or in domestic service, compared to 46 per cent of men.

Further, she noted that recent initiatives that have promoted employment, particularly through micro-enterprises, have mostly created opportunities in the informal sector, with 81.4 per cent of all new jobs created since 2021 outside small-scale agriculture and pastoralist activities are informal.

The research used a mixed-methods approach, combining qualitative and quantitative analyses. Data used for the quantitative analysis was drawn from the 2015/16 Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey, which is a nationally representative dataset that contains a labor module.

The qualitative data was collected through 21 Key Informant Interviews and four Focus Group Discussions (FGDs).

The key informants included representatives from ministries, research institutions, universities, NGOs, and labor lawyers.

FDG participants were formal and informal sector workers (men and women) with young children. The survey also found that women with young children (0-5 years) are 3 per cent less likely to participate in decent work activities.

“Social norms that place much of the caring responsibility on women, especially in rural areas, limit women’s participation in decent work.

However, these norms are changing with women increasingly taking on the role of breadwinner within the household, which may help increase the quality of their labor market participation,” said Machio.

Similarly, women in the country generally do not have access to quality and affordable childcare services that would allow them to seek and hold decent jobs.

Despite sufficient laws to protect women against workplace discrimination, their implementation and enforcement is still limited. Contrary to the Employment Act of 2007, she said employers continue to show a preference for male employees and some companies do not accord paid maternity leave to female employees.

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