The economy created the highest number of jobs in six years following the easing of measures aimed at curbing Covid-19’s spread, a boost to the more than one million young people who graduate from colleges and secondary schools.
A total of 926,100 jobs were added in the formal and informal sectors last year, the highest since 2015 when 929,000 employment opportunities were created.
This brought the total number of jobs to 18.33 million in 2021 from 18.4 million the year before, according to the annual economic data released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
The growth in jobs came on the back of easing of Covid-19 restrictions, which had led to 736,000 job losses in 2020.
The KNBS data shows formal jobs created last year stood at about 173,000, signalling a resumption in hiring after economic growth rebounded from Covid-19 shocks.
This marks the highest number of jobs created by companies since 2015 when the economy created 213,000 positions in the formal sector.
But the additional salaried jobs in the modern sector fell short of the 192,400 jobs, which were shed a year earlier.
Firms resorted to layoffs, pay cuts and unpaid leave policies at height of the pandemic to stay afloat in 2020 following reduced economic activities to contain the spread of the pandemic.
This resulted in the first drop in the number of formal sector employees in 2020 for the first time since 1992.
This came in a year the economy rebounded to grow at the fastest pace in 11 years, helped by the re-opening of the economy that boosted activities in key sectors such as manufacturing, transport and storage as well as accommodation and food services.
The KNBS reported Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) — a measure of national economic activity — grew 7.5 percent compared with contraction of 0.3 percent the year before on the back of Covid-19 knocks on economic activities such as tourism and education.
“All the economic activities registered positive growth other than agriculture. There has been sound macroeconomic management to support growth,” KNBS managing director Macdonald Obudho said.
“Our economy has picked and we are growing at that high rate. The world has grown by 5.9 percent [while] Kenya has grown by 7.5 percent.”
Wage employees increased 164,700 to stand at 2.907 million last year, according to the provisional statistics.
“This [growth in wage employment] was supported by a partial resumption of international travel, and a broad-based recovery in the manufacturing sector,” KNBS wrote in the Economic Survey 2022.
Wage employment in the private sector increased by 6.8 percent to 1.98 million workers, while those in the public sector increased to 923,100 from 884,600 workers, the data shows.
The number of self-employed workers and unpaid employees in family-owned businesses in the formal sector rose by 7,600 to 163,700 workers, signaling a recovery from 6,600 workers who lost jobs in the prior year.
The informal sector, popularly known as the Jua Kali, accounted for 81.4 percent, or753, 800 of the jobs created last year, the Economic Survey 2022 report shows.
The number of employees in Jua Kali sector, which has been a driver of new job opportunities for many years, stood at 15.26 million from nearly 14.51 million in 2020.
The Uhuru Kenyatta-led Jubilee administration, which rode to power in 2013 partly on 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.
Most of the jobs were concentrated in manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade sectors in the private sector, while essential services such as security, healthcare and education dominate jobs in the public sector.