Six Kenyan companies across the service and manufacturing industries have announced plans to lay off hundreds of employees. The Kenyan government reported a growth in the country’s economy having attained 6.3% in 2018 and 5.6% in the first quarter of 2019.
A quick look at the affected industries shows an indiscriminate phenomenon as it cuts across manufacturing and service sectors. East African Portland Cement Company (EAPCC), East African Breweries Limited, Stanbic Bank, and Telecom Kenya announced massive layoffs, which will affect more than 2,000 workers, Telkom Kenya alone intends to lay off 575 workers and this is just within two weeks.
New Technology Leading to Lay Offs
This crisis is being attributed to the fact that corporations are adopting new technology to improve their efficiency and minimize labor costs. Kenya Private Sector Alliance trustee, Mr. Patrick Obath, elaborates on this by saying: “The cost of labor in this country is very high, and that means that if companies cannot rejig their businesses to be more efficient, they are going to go down. To avoid going down the first place to look at basically is how to reduce the labor cost.”
Financial service providers and Insurance companies rank high in the list of companies laying off workers. This is because most of their clients have embraced mobile phone technology as opposed to brick and mortar branches.
The mass layoffs announced last week by EAPCC demonstrates the beginning of job losses through retrenchment in the manufacturing sector. Therefore, an increase in technology deployment translates to an increase in job losses, a blessing in disguise indeed.
How Safe are Persons with Disabilities?
The plan to retrench employees in these industries does not outline the fate of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). With the government and disabled persons organizations (DPO) fighting for inclusivity of all persons, especially PWDs in the employment sectors, where do they stand when issues of retrenchments are making headlines?
It was just last month that the then outgoing British High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey launched two projects aimed at helping PWDs to access employment opportunities, Innovation to Inclusion (i2i) and The Inclusion Works programs.
Both programs will assist in breaking down barriers which have curtailed access to various opportunities for PWDs. The Innovation to Inclusion (i2i) Program is meant to ensure persons with disabilities are actively engaged and retained in meaningful private sector work by developing, testing, validating, and sharing knowledge from interventions that directly aim to improve access to waged employment. The Inclusion Works Program purposes to increase the inclusion of PWDs in formal employment across all sectors. It plans to work directly with potential employers to establish ways of including PWDs in the workplace on an equal basis with others.
So at this scale of retrenchment of employees, we hope and just hope that, persons with disabilities are not going to be affected. After all, why should they suffer as well if the country has not even attained the 5% employment ratio required of all organizations and institutions?
By: Linzer Kibebe