Kenya diaspora workers now face mandatory welfare levy
Kenya is one of the leading sources of remittances in Africa, with an estimated 535,000 Kenyans living abroad as of 2020.
The majority of them reside in the United States and the United Kingdom, where they work in various sectors such as health, education, and hospitality. Remittances from the Kenyan diaspora reached a record high of USD 3,718 million in 2021, contributing to the country’s economic development and social welfare.
What is the Kenya Migrant Workers Welfare Fund?
The Kenya Migrant Workers Welfare Fund is a proposed scheme by the Ministry of Labour that aims to provide protection and support to Kenyan migrant workers and their families. The scheme will cover relief assistance to migrant workers in case of emergencies, invalidity benefits in case of permanent disability, medical assistance in case of illness or injury, and survivor benefits in case of death.
The scheme will be funded by mandatory contributions from both the migrant workers and the government. Every migrant worker will be required to register as a member of the fund before departing the country for foreign employment. The rate of contribution will be determined by regulations to be published later. Contingency fees paid by private employment agencies will also be channelled to the fund.
Why is the scheme necessary?
The scheme is intended to address the plight of migrant workers who often face various challenges and risks in their destination countries. These include exploitation, abuse, discrimination, human trafficking, violence, legal problems, and lack of social security. Many migrant workers also lack access to adequate information, representation, and assistance from their home country or host country authorities.
The scheme will therefore provide a safety net for migrant workers and their families, ensuring that they have access to financial and social support in their hour of need. The scheme will also enhance the governance and management of labour migration, by ensuring that migrant workers are registered, monitored, and protected by the relevant agencies.
What are the benefits and challenges of the scheme?
The scheme has potential benefits for both the migrant workers and the country. For the migrant workers, the scheme will improve their well-being, security, and dignity. It will also enable them to save and invest for their future and contribute to their communities.
For the country, the scheme will foster a positive image of Kenya as a responsible and caring nation. It will also encourage more remittances and investments from the diaspora, as well as promote skills development and knowledge transfer among migrant workers.
However, the scheme also faces some challenges and limitations. One of them is the feasibility and sustainability of collecting contributions from migrant workers who may have irregular or informal employment status, low incomes, or limited access to banking services.
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Another challenge is the coordination and cooperation among various stakeholders involved in the implementation and administration of the scheme, such as government agencies, private employment agencies, diaspora associations, host country authorities, and international organizations. A third challenge is the awareness and acceptance of the scheme among migrant workers who may perceive it as an additional burden or a violation of their rights.
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