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Cost of living in Nairobi slums higher than minimum taxable income

Families in Nairobi’s slums are finding it harder to survive as the cost of living has gone up by 24%. These are among the key findings in an independent household survey conducted by the social justice advocacy centre, Jesuit Hakimani Centre (JHC).

According to the survey, families now need Ksh 2,693 to survive through one month. This figure is the monthly average over the January-June 2007 period. This continues a rising trend from 2006 where families needed Ksh 1,332 more every month, compared to 2005. The cost of living is now at Ksh 13,704 in Jan-Jun 2007 up from Ksh 11,011 in 2006 and Ksh 9,678 in 2005. The survey also shows a 4% increase in expenditure on food items alone compared to 2006.

This means that more people have therefore dipped below the absolute poverty line. These figures are significant as the minimum cost of living is above the minimum taxable income.
Education is making little impact in reducing poverty incidence as households headed by those with better education (secondary and above) are not economically advantaged. However, the findings affirm the value of women’s empowerment: households headed by women were faring better (poverty incidence was 17.81%) than male-headed households (41.25%). Bigger households were also found to be poorer than smaller ones.

Five items account for over three quarters of the non-food budget. These are education, non-durables, clothing, health and lightning and cooking. These items alone account for about 48% of the expenditure, but house rent, accounts for the largest proportion of their expenditure (22%).
The survey uses several indicators of social well-being: employment, size of the household, gender, health, educational levels, housing, access to water and sanitation, and social networks like merry-go-rounds. JHC publishes its household survey every year as The Nairobi Basic Needs Basket.

The survey records the cost of living in twelve informal settlements in Nairobi. These findings are fourth in the series, continuing the documentation done in 2006, 2005 and 2004. It also establishes food poverty levels and overall poverty levels in these informal settlements. It rejects a static absolute poverty line, and adopts the actual average amount spent by households as the absolute poverty line.