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Kenya ranks high in inequality among African peers - report

By Wambu Wainaina | July 12th 2021
Aerial overhead township and middle-class houses.

Kenya is one of the countries in Africa with high inequality levels in terms of assets, economic, gender, social and the labour market, a new report shows.

Analysing 17 selected assets, the Inequality Trends and Diagnostics in Kenya, 2020 Report shows most households owned less than half of the assets while the two per cent did not own any of the 17 assets.

The 17 assets included mobile phones, television sets, radios, mattresses, electricity, piped water and toilet facilities among others.

The report was compiled by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) on Multi-dimensional Inequality.

However, land – which the report described as a key asset and its access an important driver for inequality – was missing from the 17 assets. It said land inequality had worsened over time in the past 18 years.

“The analysis reveals high inequalities in land distribution in Kenya. It shows that the levels of land inequality are high and indeed much higher than the measured inequality using real per capita consumption expenditure and asset index,” said the report.

Real earnings have also fallen over time in the Kenyan labour market. “The share of earnings going to the richest 10 per cent increased from 36 per cent of total real earnings in the financial year 1998/99 to 58 per cent in the financial year 2005/2006 before falling to 46 per cent in the year 2015/16,” the report said.

"The poorest 10 per cent of the population received less than one per cent of the total real earnings over the period."

The report showed that gender gaps existed in certain occupations and industries mostly in the transport sector, as men continued to receive higher earnings than women over 18 years.

“Inequality between men and women seems to be widespread in Kenya. Inequality in real per capita expenditure is high among households headed by women than men,” said the report.

"In the labour markets, male participation rates are higher than for women."

This is as the gap between male and female-headed households widens in terms of access to electricity and the internet.

“Gender inequality, therefore, remains one of the major obstacles to sustained human development in Kenya despite strides made by the government to reduce the disparities. This could be mainly due to disadvantages facing women and girls in access to various opportunities such as education, employment, and political participation.”

Despite inequality declining in Kenya in recent times, there exist wide differences in inequality between rural and urban areas and across the 47 counties in the country.

It called for deliberate government interventions to fight inequalities in all areas.

“Concerted efforts should be put in place to eliminate all forms of gender inequality, be it in the labour market, education particularly in tertiary education, and in access to electricity, safe drinking water and internet services.”  

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