Businesses & Financial News

Kenya’s labor market marginally grew in 2021

By Steve Umidha

Kenya’s job growth slightly accelerated last year, despite a Covid –induced slowdown in the overall economy.

New data in this year’s national economic survey, shows that the number of those employed in the public service marginally grew to 923,075 between June 2020 and June 2021 from 884,600 in a similar period before June 30, 2020 when the statistics was taken. Meaning 38, 475 new positions were created in public institutions.

That number was even higher in the private sector where additional 126,000 vacancies were filled during that period – from 1,858,000 number of jobs to 1,984,000.

Education sector had the highest number of employment openings during that time, where 46,200 more tutors joined the service that had a total of 609,200 during the year under review from 563,000.

According to market and consumer survey firm, Statista, as of 2020, Kenya had a total of 331,232 trained teachers in primary and secondary schools. The majority of 218,077 teachers worked in primary educational institutions, while other 113,155 professionals taught in secondary schools.

The latest data from the economic survey 2022 further shows that employment hit a record high in other sectors of the economy with agriculture, manufacturing and public administration as well as retail and whole sectors seeing an increased number of jobs opening.

The statistics office, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) attributed the overall growth on key sectors to the relaxation of various COVID-19 containment measures last year coupled with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination which it said positively impacted the economy that had seen a worrying decline in unemployment when the country first announced its Coronavirus case in March 2020.

In fact, the World Bank (WB) in its October 2020 report, Navigating the Pandemic, stated that the country was on the brink of unemployment crisis with as many as one in three Kenyan workers staring at a possibility of losing their jobs.

This followed concerns that most employed Kenyans would continue to lose their daily source of income as a majority of companies faced a high risk of temporary or permanent closure and reduced revenues owing to the impact of the pandemic.

But the improving economic conditions and steady return to normalcy, gradually raised optimism that the economy could withstand mounting headwinds from geopolitical tensions, inflation and tighter monetary policies.

Kenyan labor force, particularly young people, are disproportionately employed in restaurants, entertainment joints, tourism sector which were largely shut down when Covid interfered with daily living conditions and remained closed for large spells when the country went into a lockdown – with retail, a popular source of jobs for young people hit hard.

The unemployment rate increased sharply in 2020, approximately doubling to 10.4 percent in the second quarter of 2020. Kenya’s economy was hit hard by COVID-19, severely affecting incomes and jobs, exposing through the dampening effects on domestic activity of the containment measures and behavioral responses.

A total of 604 firms in Kenya sent workers home due to the coronavirus fallout, according to Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) which said that at least 33 jobs were lost in every modern sector company between March and August 2020.

But the latest survey shows that the labor market was moving past the Covid-19 pandemic and that the economy has weaned itself off government bailout.


-Total employment outside small-scale agriculture and pastoralist activities grew by 5.3 percent to 18.3Min 2021.

-Wage employment in the modern sector grew by 6 percent last year compared to 6.3percent decline in 2020, while informal sector accounted for 83.3 percent of total employment.

-Nominal wage bill jumped by 8.4 percent from Sh2.2Trillion in 2020 to Sh2.4 Trillion in 2021.


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