Labour PS Kaituko: Here’s Ruto jobs plan

State banking on labour migration to open up opportunities for skilled, semi-skilled Kenyans.

In Summary

• Reveals 300 recruitment agencies shut down so far in ongoing re-vetting.

• Assures NSSF money is safe as fund not run as in days of land deals.

Labour PS Geoffrey Kaituko during an interview at his office, March 15
REFORMS: Labour PS Geoffrey Kaituko during an interview at his office, March 15

Labour Principal Secretary Geoffrey Kaituko says Kenya Kwanza is on track in meeting the promise of jobs for which it was principally elected.

President William Ruto’s administration, he revealed, is exporting skills to developed economies to crack the unemployment puzzle.

In a no-holds barred exclusive interview with the Star, Kaituko said Kenya Kwanza is going big on labour migration to meet the jobs promise.

“We have many unemployed people who are highly trained, educated, and skilled. What do we do with the surplus?”

Already, more than 11,000 NYS graduates have been identified for opportunities abroad on an as-needed basis.

“Based on our visit, our Cabinet Secretary [Florence Bore] requested them to allow us take NYS graduates to that country because they are disciplined and well skilled,” he said.

As a result, mechanics, experts in human resources, general agriculture, and electrical engineering would be flown out for the opportunities abroad.

This is besides hundreds of nurses already being recruited to work in the Gulf and the Americas.

Kenya Utalii College and Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) are also building databases of their graduates for the same.

“We intend to use these databases to send these Kenyans to different countries, including those trained by other institutions.”

For Kaituko, Kenya has not been organised in its job creation plan, saying the government of the day is diversifying the market beyond Middle East.

A labour migration policy, he explained, has been considered by the Cabinet with a few adjustments being made for the health sector jobs.

“We are tweaking a few clauses on healthcare workers, then it will be taken for approval. Once passed, we will have a framework of engagement.”

“We are also working on a bill to streamline operations of agents, recruiters, trainers, and also our own interaction with other countries,” Kaituko said.

For Kenya Kwanza, the labour market is governed by the economic forces of demand and supply “for which Kenya is on the supply side”.

In this regard, Kenya has signed eight bilateral labour agreements with countries in the Gulf, Europe, and Asia.

Kaituko named Bahrain, Britain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, America, Australia, Germany, and Poland.

“Qatar is in the pipeline. We have signed with Saudi Arabia for skilled labour. A team from there is already here to recruit the nurses,” the PS said.

Kaituko added, “We want Kenyans to go to countries with which we have signed these agreements. That way, their rights can be safeguarded.”

The government, the PS further revealed, has escalated the crackdown on migrant worker agencies.

Three hundred of the initial 900 have been shut down.

“We are re-vetting them. Some have had their licenses cancelled. Their directors never showed up. They were being run by shadowy characters,” Kaituko said.

“Some of them have not been cleared by intelligence and security agencies. We are clamping down and they will reduce considerably,” he said.

The PS said rogue agents were to blame for the suffering meted out on Kenyans in the foreign countries, especially in the Middle East.

“At least 90 per cent of issues in Saudi originate from Nairobi. Bad agents were allowed to operate freely. Nobody was exercising oversight.

“We have told the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) and National Employment Authority (NEA) that we have to clean up this space,” Kaituko said.

He said they have held meetings with the agents and the trainers and the lots are now putting their house in order.

“Previously, people just registered agencies and some would traffic people. It cannot be our policy as a government to traffic human beings, our own citizens.”

Among the reforms, the PS said, anyone seeking to open a recruitment agency would have to appear in person for vetting.

“We will deregister the rogue ones. Their certificates will not be renewed,” the PS said, adding that the number of videos of Kenyans frustrated abroad would decline.

Kaituko said there has been a thriving big black market in Riyadh and in Saudi for Kenyan workers run by crooks.

He assured affected families that the government of the day “is slowly tightening things and integrating its systems with the Saudis”.

“We have also set up desks at immigration where we will be screening so that fake agents don’t sneak people out of the country,” he added.

Locally, Kaituko said they are confident the economy would roar back to life to support local jobs, too.

This, he said, would be through boosts to the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

“In a year or two, you will see the economy roaring back with the focus on reviving agriculture and manufacturing," he said.

“Our mission is two-fold; connect Kenyans to opportunities both within and outside the country,” he stated.

Ruto's team, he revealed, targets the informal sector to spur job creation in collaboration with jua kali sector leaders.

He said the government is also reviewing the labour laws drawn up at the time of Labour minister Newton Kulundu.

“A lot has changed over 16 year.s ago. The existing law was passed before Constitution. We are in the process of reforming the laws to ensure they are aligned to the Constitution,” he said.

On NSSF, the PS assured that savers’ money is safe, adding that gone are the days when “their money was being misappropriated in legacy projects, land deals, and housing programmes.”

“NSSF is today run professionally. We don’t deal with cash that comes to NSSF. We have firms that manage on our behalf and bring their reports every quarter,” Kaituko said.

He said the firms are the ones that  advise the government on where to invest.

“The money in NSSF is very secure. It doesn’t come into contact with anybody. You can no longer do the deals people used to do in the 90s,” he said.

“We assure the public that their money will be secure. If there will be an arrangement for borrowing, the process will be rigorous.”

(Edited by V. Graham)

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