Half of Kenyan workers earn below $300 a month

Monday November 25 2019

Kenyans follow proceedings during the International Labour Day celebrations held at Uhuru Park in Kenya's capital Nairobi, on May 1, 2019. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The number of Kenyans earning below Ksh30,000 ($300) per month has risen to nearly half of the total employed workers captured in government records, laying bare the extent of income inequality.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data, set to be released next week, will show that the number of salaried workers taking home below Ksh30,000 ($300) has grown by 154,945 or 14 percent to 1,279,982.

This equals 46.3 percent of the total 2,765,159 salaried workers captured in the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) database as at end of December last year.

The data shows that 183,061 of the 394,975 additional workers that have joined formal employment in the last four years have been given salaries of below Ksh30,000 ($300) despite the rising cost of living.

The majority (69 percent) of the workers taking home below Ksh30,000 ($300) work in the private sector, showing that government jobs pay higher salaries.

Dominant sectors of the economy such as education and agriculture, which account 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.


Education sector had the highest number of below Ksh30,000 ($300) earners at 274,152 being 21.4 percent of the workers in this range of salaries.

This was despite the sector also accounting for the largest share of those earning above Ksh100,000 ($1,000) at 22 percent or 17,808 individuals, representing lecturers, administrators and high school teachers, among others.

Agriculture had 247,529 workers taking home below Ksh30,000 ($300).

Other sectors with many workers taking home salaries within this range were public administration, defence, compulsory social security (152,133), manufacturing (131,557), human health and social work activities with 93,501 workers.

The income of Ksh30,000 ($300) is hard to manage, especially for those living in urban areas such as Nairobi where nearly everything requires money.

The KNBS report on the well-being of Kenyans released last year showed expenditure per month per adult on food and none-food items averages Ksh7,811 ($78.11) nationally.

However, the report showed residents of Nairobi incur on average Ksh4,239 ($42.39) per month on food and a further Ksh8,158 ($81.58) on non-food items such as clothing, education, health, transport and rent. This gobbles up at least 48 percent of the Ksh30,000 ($300) gross earning.

The proportion is higher considering the pay captured in the KNBS data is before deductions such as income tax, National Social Security Fund and National Hospital Insurance Fund.