Firms freeze employment as August polls draw closer

job seekers Nairobi

As the August 9 General Elections draws nearer, more than 65 per cent of professionals in Kenya feel that the exercise is already affecting their job search as employers say they have frozen hiring of new employees until after the polls.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

As the August 9 General Elections draws nearer, more than 65 per cent of professionals in Kenya feel that the exercise is already affecting their job search as employers say they have frozen hiring of new employees until after the polls.

The findings of a survey of the Kenyan job market by Corporate Staffing Services (CSS), a leading HR consultancy firm, show that more than half of Kenyan professionals are concerned that the upcoming general election is hurting their job search.

The majority of them, the survey conducted this month shows, are worried about their job security owing to the uncertainty of the polls, given the country’s history of electoral violence and disruption to the economy. Sixty percent of the respondents feel that there are fewer jobs available at the moment as Kenya prepares to elect new leadership in 44 days.

Slowing down

“Jobseekers are slowing down on applying because of the uncertainty of the upcoming elections. We’ve seen a repeat [presidential] election and post-election violence before, which affected many businesses, forcing some to close down,” says Perminus Wainaina, the Corporate Staffing CEO.

“Judging by history, hesitating to move from a job you already have is understandable even when you feel insecure.”

Hiring managers in different companies are having to put off the onboarding of recruits until after the elections, leading to a decline in the number of vacancies.

While some employers are advertising positions and even interviewing candidates, they are holding off hiring for new positions until after elections to avoid any possible risk that may come with the polls, the survey shows.

 “I have attended a couple of job interviews recently, but when I request feedback or progress results, I am told the exercise is on hold and that I will be updated after elections,” said one of the respondents:’

County governments

Besides private companies, public institutions such as county governments are also hesitant to hire at the moment, as some governors finish their tenure and those in their first term shift focus on seeking re-election.

In past election cycles, some businesses have withheld investment months before the election as a cautionary measure, slowing down the economy. This scenario was experienced in both 2013 and 2017 elections. The country plunged into deadly violence after the bitterly contested 2007 presidential election between then-President Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga that left more than 1,000 people dead and about 350,000 others displaced from their homes.

The violence slowed down the economy from seven per cent annual growth in the months preceding the election to less than one per cent during the crisis. While inflation has overtaken poll jitters this year as the leading concern for the economy as the election nears, many businesses remain apprehensive about events in the build-up to and the aftermath of the exercise.

Presidential run-off

Political pundits and opinion polls predict that none of the frontrunners will get at least 50 per cent plus one vote, hence there will be a presidential run-off.

Azimio candidate Raila Odinga and UDA’s William Ruto are at 42 per cent and 38 per cent respectively, according to a June poll by Infotrak, with more than 10 percent of the 22 million registered voters still undecided.

The survey involved 2,000 employees (960 men and 1,040 women) from different sectors, 90 of whom currently work but actively looking for other jobs.


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