Women lost jobs at a faster rate than men in the wake of Covid-19 economic hardships, deepening gender inequality in corporate Kenya workplace.
Data released last week by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show that women accounted for 115,409 or 61.9 percent of the 186,402 jobs that were lost in 2020.
The drop reflects that women were vulnerable to the significant business disruptions that followed the coronavirus disruptions, which triggered losses and closure of firms after the State imposed restrictions to curb the pandemic.
The layoffs entrenched the gender imbalance at the workplace in corporate Kenya with the share of women workers dropping to 36.8 percent in 2020 compared to 38.4 percent a year earlier.
Experts reckon that reduced economic activity due to the pandemic affected deeply sectors that are female dominated such as hospitality and retail.
Others say the women have always been a target of job cuts in a business setting when males influence decision making in the C-suite.
“Kenya has a silent discrimination against women where employers find it easier to let them go citing issues around maternity and young families so this may also be a reflection of that,” said Jacqueline Mugo, the executive director of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE).
Globally, women’s job losses due to Covid-19 are 1.8 times greater than men’s, say reports in the BBC.
The deeper cuts in women jobs came despite males having accounted for nearly two-thirds of the formal sector employment.
The formal sector employment had 1.01 million women compared to 1.73 million men, which puts 1.7 working men for every woman.
The contraction of formal jobs in Kenya last year was the first in two decades, reflecting the struggles of the economy that also shrank for the first time since 1992 on the back of coronavirus-induced shutdowns and restrictions.
The loss of 186,402 formal jobs, marked the first time since 2001 when some 18,300 salaried workers were struck off payrolls.
The loss of formal jobs was more pronounced in the private sector, which laid off some 206,700 workers in a period business faced a tough operating environment, including reduced operating hours as a result of nighttime curfew and travel restrictions to contain the death-threatening pandemic.
The loss of jobs was also witnessed in the informal sector, popularly known as the Jua Kali — which accounts for about 83 percent of total jobs in Kenya — as well as those in self-employment (running their own businesses) and unpaid employment in family ventures.
The Jua Kali sector, which has been a driver of new job opportunities for many years, shed an estimated 543,600 workers in the review period to 14.508 million — accounting for 83.35 percent of 17.405 million total workers in the country.
The number of self-employed workers also fell 6,600 to 156,100 in the period through June 2020, the findings of the Economic Survey 2021 show.
In total, the economy lost 737,500 jobs in the review period compared to an additional 847,100 jobs created the year before.
Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 0.31 percent last year from a 5.0 percent growth in 2019 on the back of Covid-19 knocks on economic activities such as tourism and education.
This was the first annual GDP contraction since 1992 when the output slid 0.8 percent.
The loss of jobs is a major blow to nearly one million young people who graduate from various educational institutions every year in hope of landing work to support their livelihoods as well as their families.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, which started off in 2013 with a pledge to create a million modern jobs every year, has struggled to generate decent employment opportunities, with the economy barely churning out 100,000 formal jobs in recent years.
In 2019, the economy created 847,100 extra jobs.
Recovery has, however, started with the Central Bank of Kenya expecting the economy to grow by 6.1 percent this year and 5.6 percent in 2022.