Kenya Middle Class jobs are being replaced with low-pay jobs

The Kenya middle class jobs that are projected to shrink range from office-related occupations such as couriers and messengers, word processors, and switchboard operators to light manufacturing machinists such as extruding and drawing machine setters, operators, and tenders who work with metal and plastic.

“A lot of these jobs are disappearing because in part of the increased use of the Internet and company intranets,” observed Martin Kohli, chief regional economist at the BLS.

Even relatively newer technologies such as word processing, data entry clerks, and computer operators are being replaced by improved software and processes. About a quarter of word processing and data entry jobs and one of every six computer operator positions are expected to be eliminated in the decade ending in 2022.

According to Kohli, many tech jobs — including data entry keyers and computer operators — were created to work with mainframe computers, which themselves are declining in popularity.

Non-tech, courier and messenger jobs, he added are being supplanted by an increasing use of email attachments — but not all messenger jobs are disappearing.

“There really are not as many bicycle messengers as there used to be although there certainly seem to be more bicycle food delivery people,” Kohli said. “You can’t get (food) through an email attachment.”

Other occupations likely to contract involve jobs being done increasingly by customers. Reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks, generally airline employees Kohli said, fall into this category as airlines are encouraging passengers to make their own reservations and print their own tickets, a trend also emerging in entertainment.

The jobs here look shockingly familiar. It’s like a Richard Scarry model of the labor market, with people working jobs ripped right out of a storybook. This is the kind of work that needs to get done in every city in Kenya. It shows that, at least nationally, the conventional idea of what people do for a living still holds.

Looking across incomes and rankings there are a couple of interesting things to note:

  • It’s good to be the boss: Being a manager is the most common job from the 70th percentile up to the 99th.
  • Doctors and lawyers are only found in the top two brackets. (There’s a reason our grandmothers wanted us to go to med school or law school.)
  • Sales supervisors are well-represented across all groups. It’s a broad job title that applies to people making as little as Ksh 1,200,000 a year all the way up to eight figures.

The data come from the American Community Survey using individual income from wages and salaries. We restricted the sample to adults ages 25 to 65 and who worked at least three months in the past year


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