Wednesday, February 28, 2024

More women unable to access decent work because of childcare

A mother who works at a oublic works site  Only 1% of women and 2% of men hold decent jobs in Kenya. Work is considered as decent when: it pays a fair income, it guarantees a secure form of employment and safe working conditions.

This is according to a new study that evaluated whether Kenyans and especially women held jobs that would have them lead fulfilling lives.

Among the key findings from the study was that the majority of women (57%) and almost half of men (48%) hold jobs that do not meet ANY of the seven “decent work indicators” as spelled out in the International labour organisations.

In the University of Nairobi study, decent work was measured using seven indicators which included; Earning minimum wage; Decent working time; Paid annual leave; Employer contribution to social security; Employer contribution to health insurance; Trade union membership, and presence of a written employment contract.

One of the notable reason for this is that the Kenyan economy is largely informal due to a host of issues including lack of relevant skills, a lack of conducive business environment where private sector can thrive, multiple licenses for businesses, insecurity, corruption, lack of goodwill to promote Buy Kenya Build Kenya brand, lack of inclusive recruiting and high taxation.

“We need to work on these issues plus support innovation and use technology to enable the informal sector to go formal,” said noted Prof Damiano Kulundu Manda, a researcher from the University of Nairobi.

In a stakeholders meeting to discuss the findings participants noted that formalization of the economy would also require the creation of an enabling environment for the private businesses to thrive. “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,” noted Prof Kulundu.

According to the study, women with children under the age of five are less likely to access decent work. The study on the barriers that hinder women’s participation in decent work found out that women with young children (0-5 years) are 3% less likely to participate in decent work activities, with social norms that place much of the caring responsibility on women, especially in rural areas, limiting women further.

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

The research released on 4th December 2023, notes other barriers as the lack of higher education, and a high share of informal sector work placed on women.

“Women make half of Kenya’s population and are critical in the workplace. But we have a workforce we are not utilising adequately yet we expect the economy to grow,” says Dr Dunstone Ulwodi, Deputy Director at the National Treasury.

Only 1% of women and 2% of men hold jobs that meet ALL of the 7 “decent work indicators” with men more likely to hold jobs that meet some (between 2 and 6) of the indicators than women.

“We need to invest in creating decent jobs because it will ease pressure on support given to vurnerable people like the Pesa kwa wazee and Inua Jamii programmes,” Dunstone noted.

The research, done by five researchers drawn from the University of Nairobi and relevant government entities classifies the modern wage sector as the entire public sector as well as private enterprises and institutions that are formal in terms of 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,” noted Dr. Machio of the study carried out with financial and technical support from Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP) with funding from Co-Impact.

It was noted that while sufficient laws to protect women against workplace discrimination, their implementation and enforcement were limited. “The reality is that there not enough resources to support labour causes. Also, corruption, lack of goodwill and high implementation costs for companies’ hampers execution.

Plus, workers are not aware of their labour rights, and the costs of redress is too costly for most,” said Prof. Anthony Wambugu, a researcher on the project from the University of Nairobi.

The research which is meant to inform policy and better community livelihoods gave three recommendations. One; the government should scale up higher education loan programmes to encourage more tertiary education; two, provide public childcare and regulate and subsidize private childcare services and; three, support businesses created through government programs to remain formal.

To address the issue of safe, secure and affordable childcare, Florence Chemutai, the Deputy Director, of the State Department for Gender noted that they were developing the National Care Policy to provide a comprehensive framework for mitigating issues of unpaid care and domestic work as well as other care matters.

“In the policy we are developing, we want some jobs like the domestic jobs to be recognized and be rewarded well so that it can attract skilled labour. If they can be paid fairly it will attract women and even men to work in that sector,” said Ms Chemutai.

At the same time, Dr Dunstone Ulwodi, Deputy Director at the National Treasury, stated that the study could lead to policy changes because it recognizes the underutilized critical role of women in Kenya when the country expects its economy to grow.

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He noted 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. It is critical that we have a policy that is focused on improving the livelihoods of women by placing them in key positions in different organizations,” said Dr Ulwodi.

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