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Why over 25,000 Kenyan workers could soon lose their jobs

At least 25,000 workers may be forced out of public service should MPs back a fresh bid in Parliament to reduce the retirement age.

A lawmaker has introduced a private Motion in the National Assembly seeking to reduce the retirement age from 60 years to 50 years.

The Public Service Commission (PSC), in 2016, said 31 per cent or 25,000 of civil servants were above 50 years, but if the new policy were to be implemented the number affected would be slightly higher considering more have attained that age by now.

Such a drastic decision to send home early a group that is to retire within the next 10 years would have far-reaching implications, including disrupting households’ retirement plans and burdening a Government already struggling with finances and a heavier pension bill.

In addition, it would cause upheavals because some ministries or departments have succession management gaps that have prompted retention of staff beyond the mandatory retirement age to provide more time to mentor successors or recruit staff to replace those exiting through retirement.

Civil Service Reform Programmes of the 1990s had set policy on retirement at 45 years to curb the bloated wage bill. The mandatory retirement age was in 2009 raised from 55 to 60 years, as the Government struggled to cope with a piling pensions bill.

This fresh bid in the House that targets close to a half of the about 70,000 civil servants in the national government and thousands in counties is set to trigger anxiety in public offices. It is also likely to cause unease in the private sector that also reflects guidelines in Government.

The Motion by Starehe MP Charles Njagua Kanyi was yesterday listed for debate, but was not reached for discussion by the House. If the approval of the Motion will be in conflict with existing legislation, then it would require that a Bill is formulated to amend the relevant provision in law.

Mr Kanyi argues that his move is aimed at curing the country’s huge unemployment rate among the youth.

The lawmaker seeks to create job opportunities for the youth by having the ageing workforce retired early.

About 75 per cent of the country’s population is under the age of 35, and a majority of them are unemployed despite acquiring formal education and skills, he argues.

In the draft Motion, the lawmaker says the overall unemployment rate among the youth is 55 per cent. He adds that about 800,000 graduates are released into the job market every year by various institutions, but only 70,000 get absorbed into the formal labour force.

A document prepared by the PSC titled “Human Resource Planning and Succession Management Strategy for Public Service”, disclosed that there were a total 69,445 civil servants as per national government payroll in December 2016.

The payroll data revealed that 35 per cent of national government employees were in the age bracket 51-60 years, while 53 per cent were above 46. It further revealed that a majority of employees in management positions were over 46 years.

A breakdown of civil servants by age cluster revealed that at least 11,879 civil servants were aged between 51 and 60 years.

Another 12,057 civil servants were aged beween 56 and 60 years, while there were about 399 civil servants who had attained the age of 60 years or above. PSC had told Parliament the service had in certain circumstances been forced to retain employees above the mandatory retirement age of 60 years due to succession gaps at the top levels.

Those in the age bracket of between 46 and 50 were 11,739, meaning some of the civil servants had crossed over to 50 years and above.

Another Human Resource Audit conducted in the national and county governments between 2014 and 2015, under the Capacity Assessment and Rationalisation of the Public Service Programme, also revealed that the civil service was faced with an ageing workforce, where 31 per cent of staff at both levels of governance were aged between 50 and 59 years.

Another 30 per cent of the workforce is in the age bracket 40-49. The audit further showed that 40 per cent of staff in a number of ministries were aged 50 years or above.


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