Kenya - Working conditions



In 1997, an estimated 1.2 million males and 473,400 females engaged in formal wage employment. Women work overwhelmingly in services, while men work in education, manufacturing, building and construction, trade, and transport. The highest percentage of females working in male-dominated areas of the formal sector is in education, where women constitute 40 percent of the workforce. Women almost exclusively staff several textile factories, reflecting their overall lower status in the economy. Moreover,

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Kenya 31 9 21 2 8 3 26
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Dem. Rep. of Congo 34 2 12 3 3 11 36
Tanzania 67 6 5 4 12 6 0
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

women tend to suffer from a double-work day, being forced out of economic necessity to engage in income-earning activities during the day, and then being responsible for the domestic work activities at night.

There are at least 33 unions representing 350,000 workers in Kenya—approximately 20 percent of the country's industrial workforce. With the exception of the National Union of Teachers, which represents 150,000 teachers, all unions are affiliated with the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU), an organ not known for its vigorous pursuance of workers' rights. Created by the government in 1965, COTU's leadership is comprised of the leadership of affiliated unions, though it is common for KANU to provide funding and other support for the election of senior officials.

The Trade Disputes Act permits workers to strike, provided that 21 days have elapsed following the submission of a written letter to the Minister of Labor. At the same time, however, the Ministry of Labor has the right to determine the legality of any strike, a power that was abused in 1994 when several strikes were declared illegal despite the requisite warnings. The government's response to wildcat strikes is usually severe, a problem which has been raised by various workers' rights organizations with the International Labor Organization (ILO). Members of the military services, police, prison guards, and members of the National Youth Service are legally forbidden to strike. Also, labor laws protecting workers, such as the right to organize and bargain collectively, are subject to numerous exceptions in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs).

Children under the age of 16 years are prohibited from working in the industrial sector, and the government has put forward concerted efforts to ensure this regulation is followed. Children often financially assist their parents by working as domestic servants in private homes, partaking in the informal sector, and working in family business and agriculture. Given the high levels of adult unemployment and underemployment , the employment of children in the formal industrial sector rarely occurs.

According to the U.S. Department of State Kenya Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998, the minimum wage, which has 12 separate scales according to location, age, and skill level, is insufficient to meet the daily needs of a worker and family. Consequently, most workers rely on second jobs, subsistence farming , informal sector opportunities, or the extended family for additional support. The legal limitation of a workweek for workers in the non-agricultural sector is 52 hours, while employees are entitled to 1 rest day per week. There are also provisions for one-month annual leave and sick leave. The Factories Act of 1951 sets forth detailed health and safety standards, which have been increasingly enforced since the early 1990s with the dramatic growth of factory inspections. Still, many workers who find themselves in hazardous conditions are reluctant to file complaints for fear of illegal dismissal.

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