LAYOFFS

Aftermath of losing one’s livelihood

No matter how talented you are, economic crises will always overshadow your worth.

In Summary
  • Not only does the government expect people to take care of themselves during the crisis
  • It also expects them to come up with innovative economical solutions that would benefit the country greatly

Two weeks ago, I wrote at length about the current mass layoffs and my own experiences of being declared redundant. That was after one of the media houses in Kenya declared most of its employees redundant overnight. A week later, one of the oldest media houses in Kenya, Nation Media Group, proceeded to lay off staff members, starting with the highest-paid anchors. 

As a former member of the media, someone asked me if it was wise to lay off anchors since someone has to read the news. The first thing they taught us in Journalism School is that any dummy can read the news. Anchors might be the face of the media but most of them do not know what to do past reading the prompters. Being an anchor means representing the company and attracting viewership with news delivery. As such, anchors have come to attach themselves with a celebrity status because of their budding fan base.

My justified reply was that anchors are some of the highest-paid employees in a media house. Their B-list celebrity status and sponsorship attraction allows them room to negotiate high wages. Their popularity amongst viewers translates to ratings.

As such, talented persons may believe that they are irreplaceable. But in these hard financial times companies will get rid of the experienced employees and settle for much younger persons who are less experienced but are eager to work more hours for a fraction of the pay.  The greatest lesson to learn here is that no matter how talented and indispensable you are to a company, devastating economic crises will always overshadow your worth.

In my previous article, I mentioned how we were declared redundant as an extreme cost cutting measure. What I failed to mention was that they got rid of us to pave way for an elite TV bunch that was poached from a rival media house. The company believed they were the golden ticket to increased ratings and sales. Before the turn of the next financial year, the very same poached crew were the first to be put out as the company underwent its second wave of mass layoff as a cost-cutting measure.

Unfortunately, the current layoffs resulting from economic devastation by Covid-19 are not limited to anchors and media companies. The entire socioeconomic spectrum has been thrown off course since March. Private and public sectors, SMEs and various industries have taken a beating during the pandemic.

The government estimates that half a million people will be rendered jobless because of the pandemic. This number is very much likely to increase depending on the severity of the outbreak. A report by UNDP predicts that the number of unemployed persons in Kenya might hit 10 million before the end of the year.

We cannot expect the economy to start picking up any time soon. Neither can we expect any form of financial help from the government. Developed nations came up with ways of compensating their citizens for lost income. Kenyans wish their government was that considerate of its citizens.

Not only does the government expect people to take care of themselves during the crisis, but it also expects them to come up with innovative economical solutions that would benefit the country greatly.

In his speech on June 6, President Kenyatta said, “It’s not enough for the government to pump resources into the economy… such efforts go to waste if people do not co-create solutions with the government.”