Kenya Labor Market

A majority of Kenyans are employed in the so-called informal sector. Many are engaged in self-cultivation cultivation, while others work as domestic workers or street vendors, or with small-scale industrial production.

Of those with formal employment, about 65 percent work in the service sector, 20 percent in industry and 15 percent in agriculture. According to official statistics, 10–15 percent of the workforce is normally unemployed, but according to unofficial estimates the figure is rather around 40 percent. Most of the unemployed are in the cities, but underemployment is a major problem in rural areas. Many well-educated Kenyans also find it difficult to find work.

Most unions belong to the only approved national organization, the Central Organization of Trade Unions (Cotu-K). Many public servants are not allowed to organize and the right to strike is limited. Nevertheless, strikes are common. A comprehensive teacher strike in 2015 kept schools closed for over a month.

The statutory working time is 52 hours per week, although 45-hour weeks are common.

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of key population facts of Kenya, covering most basic population data, religion statistics, and language profiles.

Kenya Population

Most wage earners are forced to pull out the cash register in order to get together for their living, for example by having several jobs or farming for housing needs.



9.3 percent (2019)

Youth Unemployment

18.3 percent (2019)



Police kill protesters

June 25

Three people are killed in the town of Lessos when police shoot a group of taxi drivers protesting the arrest of one of their colleagues, suspected of violating the coronary restrictions. The shooting must have been preceded by clashes between the drivers and the police. The police involved are later arrested while awaiting investigation. The incident is just one of several deadly police operations recently. It is, among other things, two days since a policeman was charged with killing a 13-year-old boy, also as part of attempts to enforce the curfew during the corona pandemic.

Kenya gets a seat on the UN Security Council

June 18

Kenya defeats Djibouti after a second round of votes in the competition for a seat on the UN Security Council. African countries usually present a joint candidate for one of the ten non-permanent seats in the Security Council, but despite the African Union (AU) being behind Kenya, Djibouti chose to challenge the place. Kenya also won the first round of voting but with too little margin for the result to be counted. The country will replace South Africa in January 2021.

New arrests for police violence

June 11

Three policemen are filmed as they drag a half-naked woman after a motorcycle and the video is spread on social media. The woman is reportedly suspected of breaking into a policeman’s house. The three police officers are arrested and prosecuted for their actions. The incident occurs days after protest marches in several of Nairobi’s poor areas, against the police’s brutal methods. The Kenyan police have previously received harsh criticism from international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch (see April 2020).

Police violence is confirmed

June 5

The Independent Police Regulatory Authority, IPOA, confirms several cases of police violence, including 15 deaths, since the nightly curfew during the corona pandemic was introduced in late March. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have repeatedly criticized Kenyan police for brutal practices (see April 2020). The IPOA’s investigation covers 87 such cases. Minister of the Interior Fred Matiang’i comments on the event that there are problems within the police system, but that it is important not to blame the entire corps.

Prohibition on disposable plastic items

June 5

Bottles, cutlery, straws and other disposable plastic items are prohibited at all protected locations in the country. The ban applies to national parks, beaches, forest areas and parks. Minister of Tourism Najib Balala says he hopes the ban will soon have successors throughout the region.


The ICJ postpones dispute cases until 2021

May 22

The International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) decides to postpone the process of trying to find a solution to a dispute over where the sea border between Kenya and Somalia goes. The conflict concerns an area that is believed to be rich in both oil and gas. The decision is made following a request from Kenya that wanted the hearing to be moved forward because of the ongoing corona pandemic.

Kenya closes the border with Somalia and Tanzania

May 16

Kenya decides to close its border with Somalia and Tanzania. However, freight transport between the countries should continue, but all drivers will be tested for covid-19. According to President Uhuru Kenyatta, 78 drivers have been tested positive over the past week. At the same time, Kenyatta extends the nightly curfew for 21 days, as do all entry and exit trips from Nairobi and Mombasa (see May 6, 2020). At the same time, reports that residents in the Eastleigh area and Mombasa’s old town will be protesting against being quarantined.

Ethiopian forces were behind the crash

May 11

Ethiopian military admits to accidentally shooting down a Kenyan freighter in Bardale southern Somalia. The soldiers who caused the crash do not belong to the African peacekeeping force Amisom. According to analysts, the soldiers are unlikely to have deliberately acted against a civilian plan with humanitarian cargo.

Floods require nearly 200 lives

May 7

Heavy rainfall caused major devastation in Kenya in April. Nearly 200 people have died in floods or landslides triggered by the extensive rain. About 100,000 people have lost their homes and many crops have been washed away. The rain is expected to continue for several more weeks and the government says the situation will hamper efforts against covid-19 in the country.

Kenya receives crisis support from the IMF

May 6

Kenya receives $ 739 million in funding from the IMF to counteract the effects of the corona crisis. The money will go to health care, but also to support households and companies affected by the crisis that hit the country’s most important industries tourism, trade and transport.

Two areas are quarantined

May 6

The government quarantines two areas, one in Nairobi and one in the coastal city of Mombasa, for 15 days. It says these could be the center of the spread of covid-19 in the country. In Eastleigh in a suburb of Nairobi, dominated by Somalis, 68 cases have been discovered and 64 cases have been reported in the Old Town of Mombasa. A total of 582 cases of covid-19 have been reported throughout Kenya.

Kenya wants Somalia to investigate air crash

May 5th

Kenya urges Somali authorities to investigate as soon as possible what caused a private Kenyan freight plan to crash in unclear circumstances near the city of Bardale in southern Somalia on May 4. All six on board died. The plane was loaded with equipment that would be used to fight the virus that causes covid-19. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has promised that the country’s authorities will cooperate with the accident investigation. The militant Islamist group al-Shabaab is in the area, but the place where the air crash happened is controlled by Somali government troops and Ethiopian forces. The crash comes at a time when contacts between Kenya and Somalia are strained.

Problems for mass testing programs

May 4th

A program to mass-test people in Nairobi to see if they suffer from covid-19 has been in trouble. According to the British BBC, relatively few people have come to test themselves, which is believed to be because many are afraid that they will be forced to quarantine at one of the centers set up by the government. They are also forced to pay for the quarantine stay themselves, between the equivalent of $ 20 and $ 100 a day. Those who have been quarantined have complained about poor conditions and several people have also moved from quarantine centers.


Kenya extends school closure

26th of April

Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe announces that Kenya’s schools, which would have opened on May 4, will be closed for another four weeks. At the same time, signals are emerging that some easing in the restrictions introduced to fight the new corona virus.

HRW accuses the police of assault

April 22

At least six people have been killed by police in connection with interventions against people who violate the nightly curfew. This is what Human Rights Watch (HRW) says in a statement, in which the organization accuses the police of taking the assault and shooting and abusing people in markets or when they have been on their way home. In some cases, the abuse happened during the day, before the nightly curfew began to apply. According to HRW, police have also broken into people’s homes and blamed them for extortion.

All travel to and from Nairobi is prohibited

April 6

President Uhuru Kenyatta, through a televised speech to the nation, bans all travel to and from the four regions most affected by the covid-19 viral disease for three weeks. The measure applies to the capital Nairobi, the coastal cities of Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale near Mombasa. All Kenyans are also ordered to wear mouthguards when in public places. At the same time, the country’s aviation authority decides to shut down all domestic air traffic from Nairobi and from coastal cities for 21 days. Even before that, a large part of international traffic has been stopped. The measures are taken before the Easter weekend as travel is usually intense in Kenya. The country has had 158 confirmed cases of covid-19 and six people have died in the disease.

Kenyatta apologizes for police brutality

April 1st

President Uhuru Kenyatta apologizes to Kenyans for police brutality for intervening against people who violated the nightly curfew imposed to combat the spread of covid 19 (see March 31, 2020). At least two people have been killed in connection with police action, including a 13-year-old boy.


The police are charged with assault

March 31st

A 13-year-old boy dies in the slum area of ​​Huruma-Mathare in Nairobi after police fired shots to force people who violate the nightly curfew to go home. The boy’s father says the family was standing on the balcony of their home when the boy was hit by the shot. This is one of several incidents that show how hard the police are going against those who violate the curfew, which is one of the measures taken to prevent the spread of the new corona virus. There have also been reports of police clashing with shopkeepers in Kisumu who have not been closed. In Mombasa, police in riot gear are reported to have forced people to the ground and whipped them. Kenya has so far reported 50 cases of covid-19 and one person has died in the viral disease.

Reduced freight traffic due to the corona crisis

March 27th

Due to the corona crisis, freight traffic to and from Kenya will fall by 14 percent in February. Freight traffic through the country’s ports seems to be decreasing even more, much due to reduced exports from China and India. At the same time, Kenyan restrictions lead to major delays in freight transport to, for example, Uganda and Tanzania, where queues across the border are growing, but also to places in Kenya’s interior.

Kenya announces new measures against the corona crisis

March 26

President Uhuru Kenyatta faces a nightly curfew on March 27 to prevent the new coronavirus from becoming attached to the country. At the same time, from April 1, the income tax will be lowered for employees to counteract the consequences of the corona crisis. Even corporate taxes and VAT are lowered. Those who earn less than the equivalent of $ 226 a month are completely exempt from tax. Before the measures come into force, they must be approved by Parliament. $ 100 million will also be invested in efforts for particularly vulnerable people, including the elderly and orphans. People in government service who are 50 years of age are requested to work from home or be unemployed. However, this does not apply to defense employees or persons working in socially important industries. President Kenyatta and several other high-ranking people voluntarily cut their wages by 80 percent to raise funds to fight the pandemic, while ministers in lower positions voluntarily cut their wages by 30 percent. Kenya has 28 confirmed cases of covid-19.

Kenya closes schools and faces travel bans

March 15th

Kenya, which received its first confirmed case of covid-19, the new coronavirus that caused a pandemic, on March 13 decides to impose a travel ban on anyone coming from a country where infection is present. Kenyans or foreigners residing in Kenya must quarantine when they return to the country. All higher education institutions are also closed. Twenty-two people who have come into contact with an infected Kenyan woman who has returned to her home country from the United States via London are being hospitalized. The nurses who work there initiate a masking action in protest of the lack of protective equipment. After the death, many people choose to leave the capital to return to their hometowns.

Kenya’s government debt is rising

the 13th of March

Several large infrastructure projects have led to increased debt, which Kenya seems to have difficulty paying. Several projects have also been canceled or do not provide the revenue they hoped for. At the same time, the central government debt grows, from the equivalent of just under 39 percent of GDP in 2010 to almost 63 percent in 2019. It has become possible since the parliament in autumn 2019 agreed to remove the upper limit on how large the central government debt may become (before it was 50 percent of GDP). In early 2020, Kenya will, among other things, start paying off the loan from China for the construction of the Nairobi-Mombasa railway, Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which cost $ 3.6 billion.

Coronapandemin reaches Kenya

the 13th of March

Kenya gets its first confirmed case of covid-19. The infected is a 27-year-old Kenyan woman who just returned from the US via London. Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe assures at a press conference that the threat is being taken seriously and that all available resources are being used to combat the spread of infection.

Kenya accuses Somalia of intrusion

4th of March

Kenya strongly criticizes Somalia for infringing on Kenyan territory and causing violence that has affected civilians in the border town of Madera. Struggles between Somali forces and rebels have intensified in the border area in recent weeks and have contributed to exacerbating the long-tense situation between Kenya and Somalia.


President Kenyatta takes over part of the Nairobi County Board

February 26th

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta takes over responsibility for transport, care, planning and public construction work in Nairobi County. This is done through an agreement between the president and Governor Mike Sonko that risks prosecution for corruption (see December 2019). Sonko has therefore been suspended from office until the case has been processed in court. He himself denies crime. The decision that Kenyatta should take over is criticized from some quarters for contravening the Constitution. The county council in Nairobi is expected to discuss a proposal to put Sonko before the national court .

Grasshopper swarms against Kenya’s agriculture

February 19

Kenya is severely affected by grasshopper swarms, the worst in the country in 70 years. In the most vulnerable areas, farmers have had their crops destroyed. It is happening in a situation where drought and rainfall have already hit hard on agriculture and millions of people are already having difficulty getting food enough. Several other Eastern African countries have also been hit hard by grasshopper swarms. The grasshoppers have spread to the region from the Arabian Peninsula, where extensive rainfall in late 2019 created favorable conditions for the insects. Climate experts believe that the increasing number of cyclones in the Indian Ocean is contributing to the growth of grasshoppers.

Ex-President Moi dies

February 4th

Former President Daniel arap Moi dies at the age of 95. Moi ruled Kenya with a hard hand for 24 years until 2002 and opposed in the long run all the demands to introduce multi-party systems in the country. President Uhuru Kenyatta decides to have a state funeral, and on February 11, around 30,000 people gather at an outdoor arena in Nairobi to attend. The following day, a small ceremony will be held at Moi’s farm in Nakuru.


State Prosecutor: The state has withdrawn $ 20 million

January 16

Kenya’s state prosecutor Noordin Haji says the state has been able to recover stolen assets of the equivalent of $ 20 million. According to calculations, it corresponds to about 1 percent of the sums that have disappeared in connection with high-level corruption deals in society.

Kenyatta re-furnishes in government, Ruto loses influence

January 14

President Uhuru Kenyatta overthrows the government. One of the most important changes is that Ukur Yatani, who was appointed acting Minister of Finance in the summer of 2019, now takes over the post completely, after the representative Henry Rotich has been arrested and accused of irregularities (see July 2019). Agriculture Minister Mwangi Kiunjur is also allowed to go. Both Rotich and Kiunjur belong to Vice President William Ruto’s camp in the government. Raychelle Omamo and Monica Juma swap jobs with each other and become new Foreign Minister Rep. Defense Minister. The changes are said to reflect a growing divide between Kenyatta and Ruto. There is much evidence that the president will not fulfill his promise to support Ruto in the 2022 presidential election. Kenyatta has instead approached his old political rival Raila Odinga. One sign of this is that Peter Odoyo, who at least had close ties to Odinga, becomes the third man in the Ministry of Defense. Another reason for the refurbishment is a growing popular dissatisfaction with corruption scandals, a rising government debt and rising unemployment.

Opposition politicians are prevented from returning to Kenya

January 8

Opposition politician Miguna Miguna is prevented from returning to Kenya. He is forced to leave an aircraft in Paris, following a request from Kenyan authorities. For the same reason, he was previously stopped from flying from Berlin to Nairobi. Miguna was expelled to Canada 2018 after participating in a ceremony when Raila Odinga was sworn in as a “People’s President” (see January 2018).

al-Shabaab attacks US military base

January 5

The militant Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab attacks a military base in the Lamur region of northeastern Kenya, used by the US military. The assailants kill three Americans, destroy aircraft and a number of military vehicles. Two more people are injured. This is the first time al-Shabaab has attacked an American base in Kenya. According to analysts, there are now several signs that the group is stepping up its activity and that it is moving towards more advanced goals. A few days later, al-Shabaab goes to a boarding school, located between the city of Garissa and the refugee camp Dadaab and kills four people, including a teacher and a student. At the same time they destroy a mobile mast nearby.

Kenya Labor Market