Kenya is a country with a rich multicultural background, cosmopolitan cities, and plenty of opportunities for those living in it, which is why the expat community is constantly growing and thriving. It has an estimated population of 52 million with a labor force participation rate of 66.3%. Kenya is slowly being transformed from its current status as a developing country with emerging markets, into a middle-income country. This will increase the general economic growth, the standard of living, and average income, thereby benefiting everyone living here. But before you book a one-way ticket to participate in this economic growth, you should understand the Kenyan job market and salaries offered.
What is the average salary in Kenya? A person working in Kenya typically earns a gross salary of $1,436/month, which includes basic pay and other benefits like housing, transport, and so on. The average net salary (after tax), on the other hand, is about $359.30/month, while the average hourly wage is $8.28. Salaries will differ between jobs and cities. The highest salaries are found in the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu at $1,711, $1,565, and $1,392 gross per month, respectively.
Working in Kenya is an exciting opportunity to contribute to one of the most productive economies in Africa. This country’s GDP is larger than that of Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi combined. However, despite having a strong economy, unemployment rates remain high in 2019. Plus, the government is protective of Kenyan jobs. In that case, foreigners should secure a job before arrival. I’ll cover the Kenyan economy, labor market, the cost of living, and salaries in this guide, so you can make an informed decision about relocating and working in Kenya. Note that the currency used here is the Kenyan Shilling (KES), which equals 0.0097 US dollars ($) at the time of writing –November 2019.
Average Salary in Kenya
If you’re looking to work in Kenya, it might be a good idea to look at the average salary of a particular profession you’re interested in. If that’s the case, here’s a list of jobs in Kenya and their monthly average salaries:
- Accountant – $1020
- An actuary – $2,425
- Cashier – $834
- CEO – $3,492
- CFO – $2,930
- Dentist – $3,540
- High school teacher – $1,213
- Internal auditor – $1,546
- Journalist – $1,487
- Lawyer – $2,095
- Nurse – $1,116
- Pilot – $2,910
- Police officer – $520
- Primary school teacher – $323
- Receptionist – $443
- Software engineer – $2,425
Kenya’s labor market
The majority of the Kenyan labor force was originally working in the agricultural sector. But this primary sector is shrinking and currently creates less than a third of the country’s GDP. As Kenya moves towards industrialization, 70% of its GDP is currently produced by the manufacturing industries and the service sector. These second and third sectors create most employment opportunities in the country.
Thanks to its breathtaking scenery, fantastic wildlife (particularly the safari), beautiful beaches, and delicious local cuisine, Kenya has become a popular tourist destination for visitors from all over the world. This provides numerous job opportunities for those in the hospitality and tourism industry.
Kenya is also the East African hub for business, communication, technology, and finance. As a result, several multinational companies like Google, Cisco System, Coca-Cola, and General Electric have set their headquarters here. There’s also a future in oil production.
Job opportunities for expats in Kenya
Kenyan sectors that are more likely to employ foreigners include teaching, tourism, development, and journalism. There are several volunteer positions with NGOs and the government, which can be a great way to get your foot into the job market. Kenya is also a regional hub; it’s the administrative center for the operation of East Africa’s aid organizations and has several headquarters for NGOs. For this reason, you can find a job in development or teaching positions, regardless of your set of skills and academic credits.
New infrastructure projects also open up opportunities for expats and locals alike. More foreign specialists are needed in Kenya to create better communication systems, tap new energy sources, build roads, develop transport hubs, and so on.
Collective agreements may modify working hours, but generally, they provide a 52-hour workweek (60 hours for night workers). Normal working hours vary by industry but usually consist of 45hrs/week. Any additional hours are treated as overtime and paid for on an hourly basis. Employers are, however, allowed to schedule a reasonable amount of unpaid overtime for employees to finish a job. Plus, employees in the medical field may be required to work unpaid overtime to save a life.
Employees are allowed at least 7 days of paid sick leave annually, 3 weeks of paid vacation/annual leave, plus paid public/national holidays. New mums get 3 months of fully paid maternity leave, while dads get two weeks paternity leave with full pay.
Local employee protectionism can make it difficult to find a job in Kenya, even for highly skilled and qualified foreigners. Foreigners rarely show up in Kenya looking for a job; instead, they are hired or transferred from overseas. Be sure to secure a job before relocation.
Kenya Average Household Income
The Kenyan economy has been developing at a high rate and demonstrating good momentum. The healthy informal and private sectors credit this growth. The average wage income in Kenya was reported at $7,051 in 2018, which is an increase from the previous year’s value of $6,551. Kenya’s average wage earnings are recorded every year and average at $4,992 from 2008 to 2018. There’s a huge pay gap between the high-income earners and low-income earners. Poverty levels remain at 45.9% and nearly half of Kenyan households earn less than $100/month. The majority make between $100 and $500 per month, and only 1% earn over $1,000 a month.
Minimum Wage in Kenya
A minimum wage is basically the lowest amount of salary an employee should receive for doing a job. Kenya is one of the many countries in the world with a nationwide minimum wage. This ensures every worker receives a decent pay that’s consistent with the quality and quantity of their work.
The minimum wage in Kenya remains unchanged in 2019 at 13,572 KES ($131.95)/Month. This figure, however, only applies to general laborers in major cities (Nairobi, Kisumu, and Mombasa). It’s important to note that minimum wage varies by region and occupation. For instance, the minimum wage for a waiter is around $142/month in Nairobi and $82/month in the rural areas. A night watchman, on the other hand, should receive not less than $147/month in Nairobi and $84/month in other areas.
The Kenyan minimum wage averages at around $60.64/month from 1994 to 2019, recording a low of $16.5/month in 1994 and reaching an all-time high of $131.95/month in 2018.
Despite minimum wage being a requirement in Kenya, thousands of workers still don’t receive the statutory minimum wage. This is especially true for those in the informal sector, which accounts for about 90% of all new jobs. In fact, 9 out of 10 jobs created last year were in the informal sector.
Both employers and employees need to understand the minimum wage. That way, employers can provide a favorable working environment without any interference from trade unions and the government. To the employees, such knowledge makes them appreciate the value of their job.
What are the effects of the minimum wage?
The minimum wage in Kenya has been rising steadily. This is meant to ensure every worker can afford a decent life. However, some argue that increasing the minimum wage isn’t a long-term solution, especially since the purchasing power in Kenya is constantly eroded by the high cost of living.
Average Salary in Nairobi
Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and the largest metropolis in East Africa. As Kenya’s busiest business hub, working here puts you at the heart of the Kenyan economy. The capital employs a larger percentage of the working population than any other part of the country. Most expatriates in this city work as foreign assignees in multinational companies or as embassy staff. NGOs and IGOs also have employment opportunities for foreigners.
Nairobi offers some of the largest salaries in Kenya, with salaries ranging between $231/month and $7,580/month. The average gross salary of a person working in Nairobi is around $1,711/month. This includes housing, transport, and other benefits, meaning the average monthly net salary (after tax) comes down to $354.91. Jobs in Nairobi are usually categorized into salaried jobs, which pay a fixed amount regardless of the hours worked; and hourly jobs, which pay per hour worked. In that case, the average hourly wage in Nairobi is around $9.87/hour.
Salaries differ significantly between professions. For instance, the average pay for a CEO is $3,540/month, while that of a secretary is $852/month.
The economic outlook in Nairobi
Nairobi serves as the center of economic activity in Kenya and East Africa, making its economic situation well above the country’s average. It is home to the NSE (Nairobi Stock Exchange), national and multinational companies, and has a well developed industrial center. This ensures countless job opportunities for people living in the city.
Expatriates are required to have a work permit to work in Nairobi and the country at large. Companies usually apply for the work permit on behalf of their employees and must prove that they’re unable to fill that particular position due to a lack of qualified personnel in the Kenyan labor market.
Cost Of Living in Kenya
The cost of living in Kenya may be lower than most cities in the US and Europe, but it’s certainly still higher than expected in some respects. Certain amenities such as good housing, international schools, and private healthcare can inflate the cost of living tremendously. You’ll also find yourself having to budget for additional expenses that you wouldn’t incur back home such as clean drinking water. Here’s a breakdown of the expenses you’re likely to incur living in Kenya:
Renting a one-bedroom apartment will cost you about $350/month in the city center and $160/month outside of the city center. Those looking for a furnished apartment in a lavish estate should expect to spend between $1500-2000/month. Alternatively, you can buy an apartment for about $4,606.61/square meter within the city center. Expatriates are allowed to access Kenyan mortgages. Ensure you understand the lending market and process before taking out a mortgage loan.
Public transport in Kenya is extensive and affordable, with a one-way ticket costing about $0.78. Many expatriates, however, don’t use it as it’s usually inefficient and uncomfortable. You can buy a car at around $14,531 for a New Toyota Corolla. Gasoline costs $1.08/litre. Keep in mind that the costs associated with owning a car, including repairs, maintenance, and insurance can quickly add up to increase your monthly expenses.
Although groceries are fairly high in Kenya, you can save quite a bit if you buy local produce. A single person should expect to spend between $50 and $80 on monthly groceries. Eating out can cost you as much or as little as you’re willing to spend. For those willing to try Kenyan dishes, several establishments will serve you generous portions at very cheap prices.
Other expenses you’ll need to budget for include health insurance, entertainment, clothing, as well as childcare and education if you have kids.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.