Civil servants are grappling with a mental health crisis as rising living costs and increased taxation leave them with less than 1/3 of their salaries, according to Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairperson Anthony Muchiri.
During a session with the National Dialogue Committee in Nairobi, Muchiri said that out of 79,453 civil servants, 21.6 percent, or 17,132 government employees, earn less than one-third of their basic salary.
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For many, this issue is exacerbated by mortgages, which significantly reduce disposable income, impacting their overall quality of life.
The burden of taxes and levies compounds the problem, driving a large portion of public servants into financial distress. The consequences are dire, including declining morale, reduced job performance, and an increase in cases of depression among civil servants.
Mental health challenges
The data presented by Muchiri paints a bleak picture, showing an 84 percent increase in requests for psycho-social support from public officers, rising from 6,616 in the 2018/19 financial year to a staggering 12,532 in 2022/23.
In specific sectors, the situation is even more severe. Out of 31,892 prison service officers, 13,661 (42.83 percent) earn less than one-third of their basic salary. In disciplined services, out of 106,667 officers, 51,784 (48.55 percent) fall into the same category.
Muchiri called for a comprehensive review of the taxation system or, alternatively, an exploration of wage increases to ease the financial strain on employees, particularly those servicing mortgages.
He proposed a staggered implementation of the housing levy, based on basic salary rather than gross income, a move reminiscent of the successful reformulation of National Social Security Fund (NSSF) contributions. This adjustment aims to shield employees from the adverse effects of all-round tax increases, ensuring that all employees maintain at least one-third of their net salary.
Furthermore, Muchiri urged authorities to reconsider levies and value-added taxes (VAT) on fuel, which could help alleviate the high cost of living faced by public servants.