• Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said the Cabinet has approved the plan that will be taken to the Treasury for action. State to provide seed money, workers to finance it.
•The sad lessons learnt, he said, inspired establishment of the fund that will offer help to domestic workers in distress while working abroad.
The government plans to establish a migrants workers' welfare fund to support Kenyans working in foreign countries during an emergency.
Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said on Friday the Cabinet has approved the plan for the fund that will be sent to the Treasury for action.
It will offer insurance to Kenyan workers abroad who are in distress and also provide stipends when they return home.
It will be financed by workers themselves after the state contributes seed money to get the fund started.
Chelugui said the government had difficulty repatriating Kenyans stranded in foreign countries at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The lessons learnt, he said, inspired establishment of the fund that will offer reprieve to domestic workers in distress abroad.
“We learnt lessons from this coronavirus when we had to repatriate over 1,400 Kenyans abroad through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other departments," the CS said.
He spoke during a meeting with the National Employment Authority (NEA) board in Kisumu.
The CS said his ministry borrowed the welfare fund concept from other countries, especially the Philippines that has a fund financed by the same migrant workers.
“The money will be used to support any Kenyan worker in distress, as in case of a disaster or pandemic or when they disgree with their employer and get stranded," he said.
The burden on families to repatriate their loved ones will be eliminated once the fund is operating, Chelugui said.
“Following clearance by the government, we are working on a paper to establish this fund. We have to look at the legalities with the Attorney General as well as the Treasury so we can input seed money to make it operational,” he said.
He said the National Employment Authority has laboured for its two years in existence to bridge the employment gap in the country.
About 1.2 million youths should join the labour market annually but the Kenyan economy can only absorb 800,000, leaving 400,000 missing employment opportunities.
“To address the gap, the government established the authority to look for job opportunities for the young people locally and abroad,” the CS said.
By the end of March, the unemployment rate was 31.7 per cent, of which 12.5 per cent were of young people between the ages of 20 and 24.
Youth aged from 25 to 29 account for 7.5 per cent and those aged between 30 and 34 represent 4.8 per cent.
“Youth unemployment is still a challenge," Chelugui said.
He said Kenyans, especially young people, have huge expections of the authority to deliver on its mandate of promoting employment, especially at a time of job losses due to Covid-19.
Chelugui said the NEA has mechanisms in place to ensure job-seekers are not exploited.
“I urge the board to review the mechanism for licensing and monitoring recruitment agencies to ensure compliance with the standards,” he said.
According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the labour force in March was 18. 7 million. The informal sector accounted for 84 per cent, including 35 per cent in urban areas.
The Kenya private sector employs 3.19 million people, of which 2.32 million are paid employees. About 162,700 are contributing family workers, accounting for 16.2 per cent of all employment.
The public sector employs 865,200 workers, accounting for 4.7 per cent of all employment.
(Edited by V. Graham)