Kenya has cut work permits issued to foreign nationals by nearly half over the past four years amid stringent rules on job passes for non-citizens. Immigration department issued 5,851 permits last year, down from 7,683 in 2015 and 11,360 in 2012 when the tough regulations were introduced. Kenya in 2012 shut the door on foreigners seeking permits for jobs that pay less than $2,000 (Sh206,000) per month or Sh2.74 million per year.
The new rules also locked out expatriates from employment in the medical, real estate, engineering, accountancy and legal professions unless employed in businesses that start from scratch. The regulations are particularly targeted at foreigners holding jobs that can be handled by Kenyans in an economy struggling to create formal jobs for the burgeoning university graduates. “The member of foreign nationals registered rose 47.6 per cent to 37, 033. However, issued work permits decreased 23.8 per cent to 5, 851,” says official data released last week. Kenya has the highest rate of youth joblessness in East Africa, the World Bank said, with 17 per cent of all young people eligible for work lacking jobs.
h3. Tanzania and Uganda
Neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda have comparable rates of 5.5 per cent and 6.8 per cent respectively. The tighter immigration rules came as the private sector continue to struggle to create new jobs. The regulations are in response to public concern over the rising number of expatriates – mainly from Asia – holding basic jobs such shop assistants or bulldozer drivers all of which can be handled by locals. The number of Asian expatriates, led by India and China, has risen steadily in step with increased foreign direct investments in Kenya.
Kenya’s labour market experts said the new rules are needed to preserve jobs for Kenyans as concern rises over the number of expatriates holding basic jobs such as driving and retail sales. The Kenyan economy last year lost its job creation momentum for the first time in four years, creating 832,900 new formal and informal sector jobs in 2016, down from 841,600 a year earlier. It was the first time the economy created fewer jobs in a year since the Jubilee government came to power in 2013.
Out of the 832,900 new jobs, only 85,600 were formal, accounting for a paltry 10.2 per cent, which continues a long-running trend where the informal sector accounts for the bulk of new jobs. Formal jobs added to the economy last year narrowed by a third from 128,000 in 2015 and 134,200 in 2013, data from the Economic Survey 2017 shows.