Careers

Childcare denies over half of Kenyan women decent jobs

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Women with children under five have a lower chance of finding decent work. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Women with children under five have a lower chance of finding decent work, with social norms that place much of the caring responsibility on them, further limiting their participation.

According to the Barriers That Prevent Women From Participating In Decent Work report, childcare cuts their chances by three percent.

“In Kenya, women generally do not have access to quality and affordable childcare services that would allow them to seek and hold decent jobs,” says Dr Phyllis Mumia Machio, the lead researcher from the University of Nairobi.

Read: The future of women at work

A decent job involves; productive work that delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for all, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives, equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

The study, conducted between 2021 and 2023 and released on Tuesday, reveals that a lack of higher education and a high proportion of women working in the informal sector are other barriers keeping women from working in decent job sectors.

Earning minimum wage, decent working time, paid annual leave, employer contribution to social security, employer contribution to health insurance, trade union membership, and the presence of a written employment contract were the seven indicators used in the study to determine decent jobs.

Among the study's key findings is that the majority of women (57 percent) and nearly half of the men (48 percent) work in jobs that do not meet any of the seven "decent work indicators." Only 1 percent of women and 2 percent of men have jobs that meet all seven "decent work indicators," with men being more likely than women to have jobs that meet some (between 2 and 6) indicators.

The study, conducted by five researchers from the University of Nairobi (UoN) and relevant government agencies, defines the modern wage sector as all public and private enterprises and institutions that are formal based on registration, taxation, and official recording.

“We found out that almost double the number of men than women have a written contract and earn more than a minimum wage,” notes Dr Machio of the study carried out with financial and technical support from Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP) with funding from Co-Impact.

PEP is a Southern-led global organisation dedicated to supporting development in the Global South by providing high-quality, locally-generated evidence that informs better policy decisions and practice.

While there are adequate laws to protect women from workplace discrimination, their implementation and enforcement are limited, according to the researchers.

The report particularly notes that contrary to the Employment Act of 2007, employers continue to show a preference for male employees and companies do not accord paid maternity leave to female employees.

“The reality is that there are not enough resources to support labour causes. Also, corruption, lack of goodwill and high implementation costs for companies hamper execution. Plus, workers are not aware of their labour rights, and the costs of redress are too costly for most,” says Prof Anthony Wambugu, also a researcher on the project.

Formalisation of the economy, the researchers note, is a proven way of creating decent jobs. In Kenya, the informal sector contributes to 34 percent of the GDP and employs 80 percent of the people. Most women work in the informal sector.

“It’s notable that of the existing jobs in Kenya, less than half are decent. We need to start by creating decent jobs. Without doing that we will train people until university level only for them to get no work.

The majority of jobs are in the informal sector. We need to ask ourselves how we can improve the informal sector first,” says Prof Damiano Kulundu Manda from UoN.

The findings are intended to inform policy and improve community livelihoods.

Meanwhile, the researchers recommend that the government should expand higher education loan programmes to encourage more tertiary education, provide public childcare while regulating and subsidising private childcare services, and support private businesses to get formal through the creation of an enabling business environment.

According to Florence Chemutai, Deputy Director of the State Department for Gender, who participated in a panel discussion at the report's launch, the National Care Policy that is under development will provide a comprehensive framework for mitigating unpaid care, domestic work, and other care issues.

Read: Unemployment among women two times higher than men

“In the policy we want some jobs like the domestic work to be recognised and be rewarded well so that it can attract skilled labour. If they can be paid fairly it will attract even men,” says Ms Chemutai.

Dunstone Ulwodi, Deputy Director at the National Treasury, says the study could lead to policy changes. He notes that women in the informal settlements form the majority of those who fall under the government's bottom-up module.

“When we have all the sectors of the economy working then we think that our economy will start growing. We must have a policy that is focused on improving the livelihoods of women by placing them in key positions in different organisations,” says Dr Ulwodi.

How to increase decent jobs

Education

• University and college education significantly increases the likelihood of women accessing decent work (by 88 percent and 58 percent, respectively).

• Secondary education increases women’s likelihood of participating in decent work by 14 percent.

• Men also benefit from post-secondary education, with university and college education increasing their likelihood of decent work by 95 percent and 57 percent, respectively.

Demand-side labour market factors are important determinants of access to decent work.

• Formal sector work is strongly associated with decent work. When a higher share of a community’s women hold formal sector employment, women in that community have a much greater likelihood (82%) of participating in decent work.

Policy recommendations

• Encourage post-secondary education by scaling up the existing program providing higher education loans to students joining technical and vocational education and training (TVET) centres, and universities.

• Create more opportunities for decent work by supporting new businesses to remain formal.

• Ensure women have access to safe, secure, and affordable childcare services.

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