Kenya’s cash and jobs crisis has gone from bad to worse following a government directive to freeze the hiring of new civil servants for three years.
“It is government policy to contain the wage bill to the medium-term targets,” Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani instructed on Wednesday, September 30 to accounting officers.
The National Treasury directed all ministries, state departments and agencies (MDAs) not to allocate resources for new recruitment. Also frozen are paid internship and staff upgrades.
In a circular to accounting officers seen by The Star, Yatani said only the most essential jobs will be budgeted for or advertised with prior express approval of the Treasury.
Budget allocations for 2021-22 to 2023 -24 will only allow for normal wage drift to cater for movement from one salary scale to another.
When hiring is critical, Yatani directed MDAs to obtain a written approval from his office about the availability of funds.
Only after getting the go-ahead will state entities consult the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to make the funding adjustments.
It remains unclear if retiring civil servants will be replaced.
Thirty-five per cent of national government employees are aged between 51 and 60 years, while 53 per cent are between 46 and 50 years.
The ages mean a large number of public servants retire annually.
The government is the biggest employer in Kenya and the cutback will greatly aggravate the employment crisis and could impede service delivery.
This comes as the country risks losing a million formal jobs by December due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) revealed that the pandemic wiped out 173,743 positions following implementation of a raft of restrictive measures to tame infections by the Ministry of Health.
Releasing survey findings on Saturday, September 26, FKE disclosed that the 8.3 percent job losses that occurred between March to July is the genesis of more trouble if nothing is done by the government to reverse the trend.
FKE executive director Jacqueline Mugo urged the government to re-open the economy to allow free movement of goods and services, stating the cost of closing down the economy was more adverse than re-opening.
“Rwanda has shown us that putting the right measures in place can facilitate economic recovery and reduce suffering among our people. The cost of the curfew among raft of measures now in place is costlier than the risk of more infections,” she revealed.