NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 21 – In the thirty days since Kenya reported her first case of the coronavirus, Kenyans have increasingly become a worried lot.
A new study which surveyed informal sector workers has put lack of food as the leading source of worry at 36 percent, followed by getting sick at 19 percent and exhausting their savings at 15 percent.
The study, conducted by Professor Amos Njuguna of United States International University – Africa’s, puts inability to pay bills at third place, followed by job loss.
The least of worries expressed by the study’s respondents are children not going to school at 5 percent and inability to congregate for worship at 2 percent.
In the past month, incomes of the workers in the sector have reduced by 51.2 percent, greatly affecting those in peri-urban counties and those more than 53 years. According to the study, the problem is exacerbated by anxiety as it is not known when it will end.
Furthermore, 83 percent of the respondents had not received any form of support, while those who had received were mostly employed thus portraying a self-seeking behavior
“Although significant disparities in income between men and women are not found, women are more worried about getting sick and children not going to school out of the crisis compared to their male counterparts,” Professor Njuguna said.
The study had 447 respondents, of which 59 percent are casually employed in across different sectors, among them manufacturing, agricultural farms, domestic work, hair dressing and alcohol bars among others.
The study also found that 22 percent of informal sector workers have already borrowed money at 22 percent, while 13 percent of the respondents have lost their jobs.
18 percent of respondents revealed that they are spending the money they had kept for other priorities, while others revealed to have moved from urban to rural areas, “in the hope that life is bearable in the rural areas.”
The informal sector has employed 15 million Kenyans, created nine out of ten new jobs and absorbed over 60 percent of women.
According to the study, the sector is characterized by micro-businesses that are highly unregulated, casual unemployment and incongruent public policies.
“Consequently, workers have lower incomes, temporary and less secure jobs, low savings and limited access to health, water, proper infrastructure, and education amongst other essentials. The fact that these workers bear the brunt of crises is therefore structural.”
The study recommends a raft of measures, including production as opposed to consumption led policies to address the crisis and addressing fundamental issues in the political economy of the informal sector.