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Rising cost of living push up construction labor charges in Kenya  

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- The rising cost of living in Kenya amid growing demand for workers has pushed up labor charges in the construction industry, putting many developers on the edge.

Those whose wages have risen significantly include electricians, masons, carpenters, welders and plumbers.

Their pay has been on the rise for the better part of this year as the construction sector booms following political stability.

However, an increase in the cost of living arising from high fares, rent and electricity prices following the introduction of fuel tax has seen the workers demand for more.

It now costs up to 25 U.S. dollars a day to hire a worker, a rise from between 8 dollars for a semi-skilled who mixes sand and cement and 12 dollars for a skilled mason.

Those doing semi-skilled work are currently demanding 10 dollars for a day’s work while masons 15 dollars. Electricians, plumbers and carpenters are asking for 25 dollars a day, up from 20 dollars.

“The cost of living in the country has really gone up, so we cannot retain the old rates,” said Samson Jaoko, a mason in Nairobi, on Tuesday. “We have to meet our daily needs.”

Property developers who cannot honor new wage demands are facing tough times as workers shun their projects.

Jaoko is currently working at a site in Nairobi’s South B district, where the developer is building a six-story building.

“When we started working, 20 of us, we were being paid 12 dollars for masons like us, but we asked him to increase to 14 dollars. The cement mixers are now earning 9 dollars, up from 7 dollars, a day,” he said.

Bernard Muia, a banker building a house in Juja on the outskirts of Nairobi, said construction has become expensive.

“I have been building my house step by step subject to availability of funds. When I started nearly two years ago, I was paying masons 8 dollars and the other workers 5 dollars (a day). Now charges have doubled, making construction very expensive,” he said.

Electrician Vincent Musyoka noted that workers are demanding higher wages because of the high cost of living.

“The cost of living has doubled and we workers who do not have monthly pay are bearing the brunt. The thing is that one does not know when the next job would come,” he said. “So, you have to ask for a good wage to plan for rent, take your children to school and save some money.”

Inflation in Kenya last month stood at 5.7 percent, up from 4.04 percent, on rise in fuel prices following the imposition of an 8 percent value added tax, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

House rent for single rooms, where many construction workers live, went up slightly by 0.1 percent last month but was 5.5 percent higher than last year.

Prices for kerosene, which many workers use for cooking, rose 67 percent, as a result of government tax.

Antony Kuyo of Avent Properties, a real estate consultancy, said construction workers’ wages have hit the roof.

“It is now really expensive to build a house, thanks to the high wages. But it is the consumers who are paying the highest price because the charges are passed to them in terms of rent and higher prices of houses for those buying,” he said.

Kuyo does not see wages in the sector coming down in the near future due to rapid construction of houses and rise in cost of living.



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