COVID-19 takes its toll on households in Kenya

Our latest study in Kenya finds COVID-19 taking its toll on incomes, and a reported increase in conflict in households.
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Alex Cronberg

Research Methodologist, Public Division , Kenya

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Key findings from the Kantar study which took place from 29 July to 6 August 2020 are: 

  • The level of conflict and experience of physical violence involving family members has dramatically increased in the past two months compared to earlier stages in the pandemic. In August 2020 almost seven in ten (69%) reported that they have experienced an increase in the level of conflict in the preceding two months, compared to 40% in May 2020
  • Incidences of domestic violence are increasing, with 62% of adults reported experiencing physical violence in conflicts with family members in the preceding two months in August, compared to 35% in May 2020
  • Children’s education remains the top concern (81% in August vs 79% in May 2020), whereas the level of concern for personal health has increased from 60% in May to 68% in August 2020 (percentage reporting they are ‘very worried’)
  • Loss of income in the past month was reported by 90% of Kenyans in August, showing no improvement from the 91% who reported loss of income in May. The type of financial coping mechanisms changed somewhat, with a slightly more people borrowing money (64%, +8-points), selling assets (38%, +4-points), and/or paying less rent in August (36%, +7-points)
  • The percentage of adults who strongly approve of the way Kenya’s government is responding to the COVID-19 outbreak has decreased from 49% in May to 37% in August 2020. The level of trust in Kenya's government to make the right decisions in the future about the COVID-19 outbreak has also decreased from 50% in May to 41% in August 2020

This study was conducted using Kantar’s Public Voice panel. Launched in late 2019, Public Voice is a phone survey panel that uses probabilistic sampling – recognised as the gold standard for survey research – to achieve nationally representative statistics. The findings discussed here are from the second wave of COVID-19 research in Kenya using Public Voice, and a fourth wave is scheduled for October 2020. Other key findings from this study include:

Increasing levels of conflict across the country

  • Among people reporting more frequent conflicts, 78% have experienced violent conflicts
  • The level of increased conflict is highest among adults who have had to sell assets as a financial coping mechanism (76% vs 69% overall)
  • Adults who are very worried about their children’s education and well-being, financial aspects, and/or health are noticeably more likely to also experience a greater increase in conflict compared to adults who are not concerned about these matters. For example, 77% of adults who are ‘very worried’ about their children’s education report more conflicts in the preceding two months compared to 58% among those who are not at all worried.

The increase in the level of conflict and physical violence is seen across the nation, but some groups are more affected than others. Specifically, people working as farmers and casual labourers have seen the greatest increase in the level of conflict and physical violence – 78% compared to 43% in May. In contrast, persons owning their own business and working in salaried jobs have seen less of a change: 57% in August compared to 37% in May.

Worries for Kenyans

  • Adults in Kenya state that their biggest concern about the impact of COVID-19 is their children’s education (81% are ‘very worried’). This figure remains largely unchanged compared to May 2020 (79%)
  • The level of concern for decreasing household income (68%), having to cut expenses on food and other essential items (68%, +3%-points), and children’s physical and mental development (67%, +4%=points) also remain largely unchanged compared to May 2020
  • In contrast, the level of concern for personal health has increased between May and August 2020 (‘very worried’ about personal health: 60% in May and 68% in August)
  • Women are generally more concerned than men with respect to these issues: 83% of women report being ‘very worried’ about their children’s education compared to 77% of men, whereas 72% of women report being very worried about both household income and personal and family health, compared to 62-64% of men (Aug 2020).

Financial coping mechanisms

The vast majority of adults who had lost income reported using one or more financial coping mechanisms in both August and May 2020 (93% and 94%, respectively). However, the type of financial coping mechanisms changed somewhat, with a slightly higher proportion having borrowed money, sold assets, or paid less rent in August (64%, 38% and 36%, respectively) compared to May 2020 (56%, 34% and 29%, respectively). In contrast, fewer people reported having used savings in August compared to May (49% vs 63%, respectively), which may reflect adults having less savings to draw on. 

About the study

Kantar’s Public Voice panel in Kenya provides a quick and affordable way of collecting high-quality representative data on social, economic, political and development issues across the country. Respondents are randomly selected from a pool of 30,000 adults who took part in an earlier face-to-face survey representative of all 47 counties of Kenya. The data are weighted to reflect the national population by gender, age, education, province, urban/rural status, voting intention in the previous general election, and employment.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Public Voice surveys provide cost-effective alternatives to classic face-to-face methods, while maintaining high data quality standards. Public Voice allows clients to continue to measure the impact and effectiveness of their programmes, while also capturing valuable data that will help them with Coronavirus response and recovery efforts, now and in the weeks and months ahead. 

A total of 1,210 interviews were conducted over the telephone among adults (18+) living in Kenya between 29th July and 6th August 2020. Interviews were conducted using Kantar’s nationally representative, probabilistic panel, Public Voice, as the sample source. The data was weighted to ensure national representativeness. The weights adjust for non-response across sub-groups in the population (gender, age, education, province, urban/rural status, voting intention in the previous general election, and working status).

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