labour in the kenya coffee industry:an economic analysis
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The Kenya Coffee Industry is in a paradoxical situation where it experiences labour shortage problems in a labour surplus economy. Problems exist both on the demand side and supply side. On the whole, the author feels that the problems are those of poor employer-employee relations; the low standard of amenities; low wages with respect to the expectations of job-seekers ;the unleashing of the "independence aspirations" giving rise to a general despise for farm work; an educational system that still seeks to supply personnel of a clerical cadre and the big urban rural real wage differential giving rise to an urban influx. These problems have led to a non-reliable labour supply over the years, fluctuating each time with respect to any given season. Employers have reacted by trying to a)mechanize and b)to rely, whenever possible, on family labour.This has failed because the scope for mechanization is limited and also the extent to which family labour can be used to alleviate labour shortages is limited by family and farm sizes. However, the applicability of mechanization has been slightly enhanced by the drive towards diversification into horticulture. This will interfere with the market for seasonal labour (which is the form of labour that is used for picking). The supply channels way shift into other sectors. The author argues that in the long run, it is desirable to stabilize the labour market at least in a relative sense. To do this requires a change away from the current annual payments of coffee delivered, to a sys tern of payment on de livery to enable farmers to increase the level of farm inputs including labour. Despite the increase seasonality of labour supply that is Likely to arise out of further mechanization that would come with diversification, relatively more people will be employed on a permanent basis for comparatively longer periods. The coffee growing areas tend to be multi-crop, high land, productivity areas owing to the favorable ecological conditions. They are therefore areas which are important both in output and employment terms. However, the output- on which the Kenya economy depends so much for foreign exchange. In the long run therefore, the trade-off between growth and welfare should be clearly reviewed and a clear cut decision made.