The highest proportion of Kenyans earning more than Sh100,000 is working in the financial and insurance sectors, pointing to an economy with few well-paying jobs amid high unemployment.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data released last week show 39.6 per cent of the employees in the two sectors — which include banks and insurance firms — earned over Sh100,000 per month last year.
Lenders and underwriters have a combined workforce of 77,754 out of which about 30,787 are top earners. The average salary in the country during the period under review was Sh69,100.
International organisations such as the United Nations are also top payers, with 26.6 per cent of the workers taking home a six-figure salary.
Workers in the arts, entertainment and recreation also enjoy competitive perks, with slightly over a fifth or 1,902 in the exclusive club of top earners.
The KNBS data also show that a fifth of 15,173 employees in water and sewerage firms are in the top earners' bracket.
Of the 2.9 million employed Kenyans, 310,884 earn above Sh100,000 monthly, cushioning them from the rising cost of living that is threatening to push a third of the middle class into poverty.
This represents 12.37 per cent of the total workforce, a share that analysts reckon nearly matches Kenya’s consumption patterns.
Last year, the number of workers earning over Sh100,000 jumped 15 per cent or 48,000 more to 358,833.
The rise in the number of those earning over 100,000 reflects the continued recovery of the economy in the post-Covid-19 period.
The State statistics agency notes that the earnings or wages cover all cash payments, including basic salary, cost of living allowances, and profit bonus, together with the value of rations and freeboard, and an estimate of the employer’s contribution towards housing.
Other top earners in the formal sector are in the administrative and support service (24.4 per cent), human health and social work (23.5 per cent) and utility firms such as electricity distributors (18.2 per cent).
Around 17.7 per cent of workers in wholesale and retail trade fall in this category as well.
While the country has seen rapid growth in information and communications technology (ICT) over the past decade, with corporate giants like Safaricom reporting record profits, only 13.2 per cent of staff in the industry take home over Sh100,000.
Education has the greatest number of employees taking home more than Sh100,000 in a month at 79,828. However, this represents only 13.1 per cent of the 609,211 employed as teachers and instructors.
Faced with a rising cost of living, many Kenyans are looking for better-paying jobs to cushion themselves against inflation that slowed down for the first time in nine months on the back of a drop in food and fuel prices and Central Bank’s sustained hikes.
The average monthly income for Kenyans increased at the fastest pace in six years to Sh20,123 following recovery from Covid-19 economic hardships.
KNBS data show the country’s annual gross national income (GNI) per capita grew 11.6 per cent to hit Sh241,467 ($1,979) last year, up from Sh216,337 ($1,773) in 2020.
The World Bank, however, says that Kenya’s middle class are just a shock away from sliding into poverty, a situation the multilateral lender blamed on the non-inclusive growth under former President Uhuru Kenyatta's administration.
“Though economic growth contributed significantly to poverty reduction in Kenya, growth has become less pro-poor in recent years,” the World Bank said in a report.
The bank in the report capturing Kenya’s economic health reckons that the gap between the rich and poor is unchanged from 2015, adding that it narrowed between 2005 and 2015.
This has affected the growth in lower-cadre jobs such as domestic work and mining.
Workers employed in mining, public administration and in households find it hardest to earn more than Sh100,00 monthly.
Only 3.3 per cent of the 14,708 wage employees in the mining and quarrying sector took home over Sh100,000 in the period under review.
Most of these workers face the prospect of remaining trapped in low pay regardless of years worked, making it difficult to climb the social ladder.
A relatively higher proportion of the workers in the sector -- four per cent of the total -- earned less than Sh10,000 in a month, reflecting the measly earnings for Kenyans engaged in the extraction of minerals and stones.
Transportation and storage —which was badly hit by the pandemic as movements around the country were restricted—has only 6.9 per cent of their wage employees taking home more than Sh100,000.
However, unlike mining and quarrying, transportation and storage have very few workers earning less than Sh10,000.
The actual labour earnings across the country remain unclear, however, with most Kenyans employed in the informal sector, especially agriculture.
In total, however, the private sector doled out the biggest pay cheque of Sh1.64 trillion last year, equivalent to 68.4 per cent of the total wage earnings of Sh2.405 trillion in the country.
This underlines the critical role companies play in creating and sustaining earnings from employment.
Public sector wages stood at a cumulative Sh760 billion, with the Teachers Serve Commission the single-biggest payer at Sh259.6 billion.