Kenya’s best and worst paying jobs list revealed

Dominant sectors of the economy paid the least
Dominant sectors of the economy such as agriculture, which accounts for 34.2 per cent of gross domestic product, transport (8 percent), manufacturing (7.7 per cent) and real estate (7 per cent) paid the least. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

International non-governmental organisations and the financial services sector have the highest paying jobs in Kenya’s formal employment market while agro-based firms have the lowest-paying, according to official data.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), set to be released next week, will show that a fifth of employees in the top two sectors are earning more than Sh100,000 per month, recording the highest concentration of the top earners.

Dominant sectors of the economy such as agriculture, which accounts for 34.2 per cent of gross domestic product, transport (8 percent), manufacturing (7.7 per cent) and real estate (7 per cent) paid the least.

Agriculture’s share of the top earners was a measly 0.9 percent, manufacturing (two percent), real estate (3.1 per cent) while the ICT sector where East Africa’s most profitable firm, Safaricom, sits had 3.2 percent of its workers earning above Sh100,000.

The foreign-backed NGOs employed a total of 1,345 staff and 270 of them earned more than Sh100,000 monthly, making the agencies a magnet for those seeking or wanting to change jobs.


These organisations had no employees earning less than Sh20,000 per month while 60 percent or 202,311 employees in the agriculture sector earned less than Sh25,000.

The high compensation among the institutions is seen as arising from the fact that they are well funded and rely heavily on highly skilled professionals.

Professionals working in the sector include ambassadors, commercial attaches, senior executives, consultants and programme officers.

They are represented by employees working in agencies such as the United Nations and embassies.

The financial services sector was second, with 11,598 employees or 15.3 percent of its 75,621 workforce earning above Sh100,000.

The industry had no worker earning less than Sh15,000 per month. The industry, comprising banks, insurance firms and investment companies, has over the years focused on reducing routine roles like clerical jobs in favour of strategic jobs headed by highly paid professionals.

Banks and insurers, for instance, are hiring more technology-savvy managers to spearhead their automation processes with the aim of cutting costs and reaching more customers.

The ranks of professionals in the institutions who earn the largest salaries include branch managers, analysts, investment officers, senior managers and chief executives.

Arts and entertainment sector was third, with 550 or 7.5 percent of its 7,243 employees in the top most income bracket. The lowest-paid staff in the industry earned the equivalent of Sh10, 000 per month.

Professionals in this sector include movie and television production managers, advertising creatives and event organisers.

The KNBS data also revealed the industries with the lowest remuneration, with mining and household jobs having no single employee earning more than Sh100,000 based on income tax filings with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA)

The finding is an indication that the sectors rely heavily on low-skilled labourers.

Mining had workers in the various income bands ranging from zero to Sh99,999 per month. Base Resources, which mines titanium in Kwale County, is one of the largest mining firms in the country alongside Tata Chemicals which extracts soda ash at Magadi.

Most households, on the other hand, pay their employees including gardeners, security guards and cooks below the minimum wage that ranges from Sh13,000 to Sh15,000 per month.

While the government sets the minimum wage for these workers, compliance among employers is limited to wealthy households. The KNBS data shows that monthly labour earnings in this category started at Sh10,000 and topped out at Sh99,999.

The agricultural sector, which is the largest formal employer, has the smallest share of workers earning more than Sh100,000 per month. The industry had 2,931 staff in the top income band, representing 0.87 percent of its 336,607 workforce or 12 percent of Kenya’s 2.76 million formal jobs. Agriculture had 202,311 or 60 percent of its staff earning less than Sh25,000 per month. The finding illustrates the fact that most farm work comprises routine duties carried out by low-skilled employees such as tea pickers.

Transport had a slightly higher concentration of top earners, counting 1,578 staff who represented 1.74 percent of its 90,647 workforce.

The data sheds light on the growing income inequality in the country, with the biggest employers offering only a living wage to most of their workers.

The highest-paying jobs, meanwhile, are few and concentrated in the services sector in Nairobi and other major cities like Mombasa and Kisumu.

Manufacturing, for instance, employs 307,592 people and is second only to agriculture in size. The sector, however, has only 6,117 workers or 1.9 percent of its workforce in the top income bracket. The data shows that 131,557 employees or 42.7 percent of the entire workforce in manufacturing are paid less Sh30,000 per month.

As a whole, the highest-earning employees add up to 79,983 and represent only 2.89 percent of the entire formal sector workers. Nearly three quarters or 74.58 percent of formal sector workers earn below Sh50, 000, reflecting the income inequality and the widening gap between the rich and the poor.