LETTERS: Local creative industry has great potential


Fashion designer at work. PHOTO | STOCK IMAGE

Creative careers may seem like a headache to many Kenyan parents, but a relief for those in the millennial generation. Creative careers represent an escape from traditional career choices in banking, insurance, NGOs, sales, etc. Kenyan creatives are divergently questioning their work weeks, workloads, and, most importantly, their work salaries.

Most formal sector Kenyan employees enjoy the reliable regular incoming dripping in each month. Unfortunately, though, there’s a wage reliability and discrepancy gap among creatives. Either creatives do not get paid for their work, get their payments unnecessarily delayed, or they do not receive adequate pay for their level of work effort. Kenyan creatives should not have to settle for less than what they offer a firm, yet, they get taken advantage of.

The creative industry is a newly recognised field worldwide. Graphic designers, UX design consultants, and entry-level fashion industry professionals, among others, all hold one thing in common: innovation.

Innovation represents a key element in the success or failure of any business in the modern era. If businesses rely on creativity and idea generation to make a profit, then why aren’t they willing to pay for it when it comes from untraditional “gig” labour?

One particular popular Kenyan fashion magazine pays their junior editors Sh35,000 per month. These junior editors are expected to work at least eight-hour work days, six days a week, not including events, and generate the ideas and execution of nearly every article within the magazine.

The magazine thrives on the creative capability of its staff members, but their gross monthly salary does not reflect their level of output compared to the firm’s profit if counted on a per employee basis.

Such practices would not be considered sustainable. Social responsibility is one of the factors within sustainability that has not been considered among creatives in Kenya.

Within social responsibility is the responsibility to empower employees. Employees cannot be empowered when they’re working long hours for small money compared to the profit margins earned. No one can feel empowered without earning a livable wage.

Employment is a partnership between an employer and an employee. Both should equally benefit since both parties are investing in the other.

Interestingly, sustainability in business practices actually leads to profitability. When a business empowers their employees, productivity shoots through the roof. When employees feel valued, they become indelible assets to a company.

An intelligent business executive would not think to place low values on their assets. According to the World Economic Forum, the most sought after skill that employers seek across the majority of industries is creativity.

So then it begs the question: why do creatives often get the short end of the stick when it comes to being paid for their innovation? We can make a positive change in our Kenyan job market.

We can recognise that creatives represent the future direction of business and the faster companies recognise the reality, then the more successful firms will become as they tap into this up and coming labour power source.

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