Women continue to experience worse forms of poverty compared to their male counterparts, a new report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates.
The study said females suffered higher deprivation as recorded by its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which looks at various indicators including health, education and living standards.
Overall, the statistics indicate that more than 65 percent of women are all-round poor compared to 56 percent of men. It also shows that on average women experienced 4.5 deprivations, out of the seven basic needs that were analysed. This compares to 4.3 for men.
The 2020 poverty report is the country’s first attempt to comprehensively analyse poverty, drawing data from various sources including the 2015/16 Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey.
The MPI is seen as a more holistic approach of measuring poverty rates than analysing income alone. It is based on seven indicators – malnutrition, education and sanitation, water, housing, economic activity, and information.
If people are deprived in three or more areas, they are identified as “MPI poor”.
The survey revealed that young women aged 18 to 34 years were most likely to be deprived of education (illiterate), economic activity (without a source of income) and information compared to their male peers. It also found out that about 46 percent of the young women were unemployed compared to 34 percent of young men.
Additionally, about 13 percent of the women were found to be illiterate while 56 percent lacked access to information. Only 11 and 49 percent of young men lacked education and information, respectively. The statistics also revealed that older women faced deprivation over a larger number of indicators compared to their male age mates.
The report said that 76 percent of women aged 39 to 54 were illiterate as they were found to be deprived of secondary or higher education, which was more than 62 percent of the men. About 81 percent of this women group was also deprived of access to the labour market compared to 67 percent of the adult men.
Additionally, more than 68 percent of elderly women experienced deficiency across more indicators on the MPI than men at 48 percent. In general, the report found that six out of 10 adult women and men aged between 35 and 59 were MPI poor.
It also found that 53 percent of Kenyans were all-round poor while about 23.4 percent of the country’s population was deprived of at least three basic needs, services and rights.
Additionally, the study established that education, housing and economic activity were the largest contributors to poverty in both women and men.
Deprivation was also found to be higher in rural areas across all dimensions while education and economic activity deprivation were greatest contributors of poverty in urban centres.
Children, from infancy to those aged 17 years were found to be lacking nutrition, proper sanitation and housing. Besides children were also found to contribute more to poverty as the study established that one in two poor people in the country was a child.
“We now know what the greatest deprivations for children are in each county and where the resources are going. In some cases counties may realise that there is a mismatch and that budgets need to be spent differently to make a real difference for children, the young people and women,” said Unicef Kenya Representative, Maniza Zaman.
The report prepared by KNBS in collaboration with Unicef and UN Women is set to inform gender-sensitive policy planning and highlight areas and sectors that are in dire need of funding to ensure the holistic growth of the economy and equality.
The survey was published at the backdrop of the global MPI launched in mid-July that explored other dimensions of poverty. The study found that deprivation in access to clean cooking fuel persisted across the world with 20.4 percent of people in the developing countries covered lacking access to it.
Absolute figures indicate that 1.2 billion lack access to clean cooking fuel, 687 million are without electricity and 1.03 billion have substandard housing materials. The report also established that about 84.3 percent of the world’s MPI poor people live in Sub-Saharan Africa (558 million) and South Asia (530 million).
“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) explicitly include a target on reducing multidimensional poverty. In particular, SDG target 2.1 refers to reducing by half the proportion of women, men and children living in poverty in all its dimensions. This report provides the baseline against which to evaluate our progress towards this goal,” said Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Ukur Yatani.
The report also took into account monetary poverty where it established that more than one in every three Kenyans is monetary poor. Monetary poverty was also higher among the youth in rural areas at 40 percent, compared to those residing in urban centres, at 29 percent.
Poverty levels are projected to worsen in the short-term as the economy stays under pressure due to the Covid-19 pandemic-related disruption of key growth sectors such as manufacturing, trade, tourism and real state.
Kenya’s economic growth slowed to 4.9 percent in the first quarter of this year from 5.5 percent a year earlier, hurt by the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The economy was affected by the resultant uncertainty that was already slowing economic activity in some of the country’s major trading partners,” the KNBS said in June.
The National Treasury projects economic growth will slow to 2.5 percent this year from 5.4 percent in 2019. The pandemic has triggered mass job losses as companies downsized operations to stay afloat.
Data by KNBS shows that the number of people not in the active labour force increased by 5.1 percent (or 435,369 people) to 8.53 million in the first quarter of this year, worsening the dependency ratio. In the previous quarter, 8.09 million people were not in the active labour force.