Q&A With National Employment Authority Director General, Edith Okoki

July 14, 2020

Acting Director-General of National Employment Authority Edith Okoki faced questions from the public via Daily Nation.

The National Employment Authority in its mandate is required to keep a register of job gains and losses. That requires that employers statutorily report any job losses either as a result of retrenchment, dismissal, or natural attrition to the authority. Based on this, how can you characterise the reports the authority has been receiving in so far as job losses are concerned since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic? How does this period compare to the immediate period before the Covid-19 set in? Gabriel Odawa, Eldoret

Sections 76-78 of the Employment Act, 2007 requires an employer to notify the Director of Employment of every vacancy that occurs in their establishment, business or workplace. An employer is also required to notify the director on the filling of a post or its abolition as well as termination or lay-offs.

The National Employment Authority has been receiving more notifications of job losses during the Covid-19 period compared to the immediate period before the Covid-19 set in.

Most of these job loss reports come through termination notifications in form of lay-offs, redundancies and forced leaves.

Madam, your authority is the one charged with licensing the recruitment agencies for Middle East jobs. I have recently noticed that the number of young women applying to go to the Middle East has gone up substantially and almost all the agencies whose licenses had at one time been withdrawn are all back in business. Can you assure the public that the agencies are fully compliant and that the young women’s rights are fully protected when they leave Kenya to work in the Middle East? Mwanaisha I. Hassan, Nairobi

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the informal sector accounts for 83 per cent of the labour force. Most of the workers in the informal sector operate under a high degree of informality and vulnerability, resulting in small and unpredictable incomes, poor working conditions and low productivity. What are you doing to improve conditions in the informal sector and ensure that workers are not trapped in poverty? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi

The informal sector faces decent work deficiency challenges. Some of the jobs are precarious in nature. This is manifested by their insecurity which is attributed to high mortality rates of the enterprises, absence of social security and weak frameworks for safety and healthy at the workplace.

The National Employment Authority will collaborate with the Micro and Small Enterprises Authority (MSEA) to ensure implementation of the Sessional Paper No.2 of 2005 on development of micro and small enterprises for purposes of streamlining the sector. Further, NEA is one of the key stakeholders in the development of a national skills development policy which is geared to enhance skills and productivity of Kenyan workers including those in the micro, small and medium enterprises sector.

Public Service Internship Programme is a government initiative designed to offer opportunities for young college graduates to acquire and develop professional skills while gaining work experience. What plans have you put in place to ensure that interns are employed and absorbed in the public service? Raphael Obonyo, Nairobi

The authority is in the final stages of formulating an internship policy framework and guidelines on the implementation of the programme. Its objectives is to expose job-seekers to the world of work and enhance their employability.

In your register of job-seekers, how many do you have currently, and how many have been successfully linked to employers? Protus Maina, Nairobi

Between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, we registered over 70,000 job-seekers and 9,000 were successfully linked to employers locally while over 50,000 were placed through private employment agencies in foreign labour markets. It is, however, important to note that a majority of them registered manually in our county offices and have not registered electronically through the online portal www.neaims.go.ke.

The idea to establish the National Employment Authority was a noble gesture by the national government. What are the plans of having forward and backward linkages with the County Public Service Boards, who may be strategic stakeholders to the Authority? Dr Elijah Achoch, Chairman Siaya County Public Service Board.

The sessional Paper No. 4 of 2013 on Employment Policy and Strategy for Kenya takes cognisance of the fact that the multifaceted nature of the employment challenges require concerted efforts and involvement of all the key stakeholders. The National Employment Authority has, therefore, established forward and backward linkages with all the stakeholders enhancing employment promotion. The county governments are therefore key stakeholders.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, your office is expected to play a critical role in the recovery effort. This is especially so after millions of Kenyans lost their jobs. Going forward, what is the strategic plan of the authority that will address this crucial matter? Dr Njau Gitu, Nyandarua

The strategies that we are looking into include provision of labour market based on skills on available job opportunities, development and implementation of return and re-integration programmes for migrant returnees, placement of migrant workers who lost their jobs in alternative jobs abroad where such jobs are available, carrying out employment needs assessment in existing and labour destination countries with special focus on new labour markets, and establishment of a database on Kenyan migrant workers.

The negative effects of Covid-19 on Kenya’s economy makes it nearly impossible for all sectors – public, private, and informal – to guarantee employment and job opportunities to university graduates and college leavers in future. Going by the specific mandate of your authority, what advice or recommendations will you make to the government on this matter? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

We have advised and recommended for the establishment of an unemployment relief fund. Modalities of coming up with the fund can be agreed upon by the social partners — the employers, the workers and the government.

There is no doubt your authority is under immense pressure to deliver jobs to unemployed youths who are reported to be in their millions. This situation has been worsened by the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic. Madam, how are you leveraging on the President’s Big Four Agenda to create the required number of jobs for the millions of unemployed youths in the country? What challenges stand out in this quest? Komen Moris, Eldoret

NEA has a critical role to play under the Big four Agenda in terms of identifying the skills required for the implementation of the programmes, monitoring the quality and quantity of jobs being created. NEA intends to push for the Big Four Agenda through the implementation of the National Internship Programme, which aims at equipping young Kenyans with requisite skills to boost industrial production and jobs.

In the past, successive governments have initiated programmes aimed at helping youths earn incomes and survive tough times. Although some are laudable, others have simply been laughable due to their short-sightedness and lack of sustainability mechanisms. The initiative to set aside 30 per cent of government tenders for the youth, women, and people living with disabilities has been reported to have been hijacked by cartels and rogue government functionaries to the detriment of the targeted groups. How can your authority intervene to root out such malpractices? Do you require Parliament to enact more enabling laws for your Authority? Komen Moris, Eldoret

The initiative to set aside 30 per cent of government tenders in all MDAs for the youth, women and people living with disabilities is noble and is aimed at putting money in the pockets of the above mentioned categories.

The initiative is being spearheaded by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA). To ensure that the target group benefits from the initiative, it has been made mandatory to have this in performance contract of MDAs.

Madam, seeing that the authority currently has a physical presence only in Nairobi, how do you link up with employers in far-flung parts of the country? Are there plans to devolve your services to the counties? Mohamud Hassan, Wajir

Currently, NEA has a network of 30 employment offices spread across 28 counties (list available through www.nea.go.ke/web and can be located through google map). The long-term objective is to expand its coverage to all the 47 counties and even sub-counties in order to enhance service delivery.

What have been the achievements of your entity so far and what are you currently doing at this time of coronavirus? Githuku Mungai, Nairobi

The authority has achieved considerable milestones in employment promotion such placement of over 200,000 job-seekers in employment locally and abroad. It has designed and is implementing a pre-departure training and orientation programme for outbound migrants in order to acquaint migrant workers with the knowledge and skills to cope with the work environment in the labour destination countries. It has enhanced ethical recruitment through registering and monitoring the activities of private recruitment agencies.

Madam, how do you manage to perform the twin mandates of registering  job seekers and linking them with job opportunities seeing that for a single vacancy there are hundreds if not thousands who are qualified? Isn’t there a risk that you could lift jobseekers’ hopes only to have the same hopes dashed shortly after? Evans Mutuku, Mtito Andei

The authority has so far managed to develop an online portal (www.neaims.go.ke) or the NEA mobile application (NEAApp) where jobseekers are expected to register their profiles. Likewise, employers are expected to register, declare job opportunities and recruit through the same portal.

However, the challenge we have had over the last one year is that some employers have advertised opportunities but job seekers do not apply or those who apply do not meet the job specifications. This could be as a result of the fact that job seekers are not aware of such opportunities.

To address this challenge, the authority intends to do an elaborated awareness creation and sensitisation programme for job seekers, employers and training institutions on NEA services particularly those available online through www.neaims.go.ke.

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