Dark Christmas beckons as Kenyans tell of job loss agony

Serah Mugoi never saw it coming, and she thought it was a slight misunderstanding. She had been a customer care representative at the betting firm, Sportpesa, for almost two years. “We were in the middle of celebrating a colleague’s birthday when our phones beeped simultaneously. It was an email to all and it changed the mood in the room. The smiles dropped and we stared at each other, desperately trying to come to terms with the sad news,” Ms Mugoi recalls. On that day in October, Sportpesa let its 362 employees know they were out of a job, just three months to Christmas. The data may be showing the economy is getting bigger, but for thousands of workers, reality does not reflect this growth. Scores of employees are headed into a dark festive season, uncertain of whether they will have their jobs come January, as companies embark on a fresh wave of layoffs and cost-cutting measures. The government too is evaluating ways of bringing down the wage bill as it looks for areas to reduce spending, which has risen to uncontrollable levels.

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While it has ruled out retrenchments, the State plans to reduce its wage bill by Sh182 billion through a freeze on employment, a situation creating anxiety among civil servants who are on contract, and fear their terms may not be renewed. The private sector continues to put jobs on the chopping board, backing a trend seen throughout the year as industry adapts to the realities of an economy that is not showing signs of being on the mend. Aside from layoffs and doing away with non-essential spending, companies are also dishing out little to no dividends to its shareholders. On the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), at least 20 listed firms have warned their profits this year will tumble by more than 25 per cent. And just this week, BOC Gas and Eaagads joined the list. And while the financial sector has seemingly held up the most in the face of a bleeding economy, it has not managed to save all its employees. Banks have announced round after round of layoffs as technology makes many of its employees redundant. Mobile lender, Tala, joined the fray, with its management announcing impending re-organisation in Kenya just weeks after shutting down Tanzania operations. However, the lender, which […]

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