Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared an increase in the minimum wage by 12 percent effective immediately as he joined the country's workers in celebrating this year's Labor Day in the capital, Nairobi.
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Kenyatta said the decision to raise Kenya's minimum wage was aimed at cushioning the country's workforce against the rising cost of living.
"We find that there is a compelling case to review the minimum wages so as to cushion our workers against further erosion of their purchasing power while also guaranteeing the competitiveness of our economy," he said.
Kenyatta who said that for over three years there has been no review of the minimum wages while the cost of living has increased with inflation ranging between five and six percent annually, noted that the government has found it necessary to increase the minimum wages.
The Kenyan leader called on the employers to make adjustments to protect workers' welfare.
"I call on the private sector, please let us work in the same spirit, let us all make the adjustments that will sustain the wellness of our labor force, let us sacrifice a portion of our profits," he said.
The East African nation last reviewed the minimum wage in 2018 when Kenyatta announced a wage increase of 5 percent.
The minimum wage in Kenya currently stands at 13,500 shillings (about 116.5 U.S. dollars) since its last review in 2018.
Kenyatta's directive which was well received by the workers including labor unions was however faulted by the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) citing depressed earnings due to hard economic times, including the high cost of operation, for most firms.
"Workers have asked for an increase in the minimum wages but unfortunately, we were unable to meet an agreement. Employers seek a wage structure that only protects the lowest-paid worker but that will also increase production," FKE executive director Jacqueline Mugo said.
The president regretted the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine which he said has played a key role in the ongoing fuel crisis, as well as slowing down the global economy's recovery from the pandemic.
Kenyatta said the country's fuel subsidy program had ensured that Kenya maintained among the lowest pump prices in the world, and cautioned oil marketers against hoarding petroleum products.
He lauded the role and resilience of workers in bolstering the country's efforts to bounce back and build stronger after the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our workers are the backbone of our economy and our way of life. Throughout the COVID-19 disruptions that began in the year 2020, our workers have kept the Kenyan flame burning bright. For that, we will remain forever grateful and indebted to them," he said.
Kenyatta warned that stern action will be taken against oil marketers who sell the subsidized fuel outside the country.
He also asked the private sector, as key partners of the state in the economic development journey, to make re-adjustments that secure the elusive balance between profitability and sustaining the wellness of their labor force.
Kenyatta also pointed out that the various economic stimulus packages rolled out by his administration over the last two years have helped Kenyan families to cope with the challenges arising from shrinking opportunities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Unlike the private sector that declared redundancies that led to retrenchments, the public sector maintained its workforce at pre-COVID levels," he said.
Kenyatta encouraged workers to embrace positive energy to continue powering the country's development by building, believing and being champions of the Kenyan dream.
This year's Labor Day celebrations were marked under the theme Job Creation, Peace, and Sustainability. ■
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