The Immigration Ministry last year came under criticism from MPs who accused its officials of irregularly issuing work permits to foreigners.
Mr Kajwang’ denied the allegations, saying most of the foreigners came in under arrangements with local partners that allow them to bring in some workers from abroad.
A total of 26,077 foreigners were issued with work permits between 2007 and April last year but only 14,000 were active. The rest had either expired or been cancelled.
Indian citizens held the highest number of work permits at 10,581, followed by Chinese (3,494), Britons (2,700), and Americans (1,593).
The number of Asian expatriates, led by India and China, has risen steadily in step with increased foreign direct investments in Kenya.
Kenya had issued 21,383 work permits as of last year, more than two times the 10,812 that had been issued by 2007, according to the Economic Survey 2012.
Some 23,498 entry permits were renewed, nearly five times the 4,743 renewed by 2007, revealing that more foreign workers were staying longer in the country.
Kenya has also retained a tight grip on the inflow of labour from the East African Common Market despite abolition of work permits for EAC citizens under the common market protocol.
Since the launch of the EAC common market in July 2010, Kenya has only scrapped work permit fees for Rwandans.Kenya has lifted passport and work permit requirements for Rwandese
The tighter immigration rules came as the private sector’s ability to create new jobs dropped to 47,000 last year compared to 56,000 in 2010.
That drop came on the back of a slowdown in economic growth to 4.4 per cent from 5.8 per cent in the previous year.
More than 700,000 high school and college graduates enter the labour market every year and the creation of a total of 520,100 jobs last year means the ranks of the jobless rose by more than 200,000, deepening unemployment.
However, some analysts argue that the new immigration rules are inadequate and are sidestepping the real causes of Kenya’s high unemployment rate.
“We should focus on making our professionals more competitive both in the local and international labour market.
Ring-fencing a few local jobs from expatriates will not solve the problem,” said David Muturi, the executive director of the Kenyan Institute of Management.
Mr Muturi said that bringing in the relatively more expensive foreign labour is usually a last resort for companies and is a problem the government can solve through quality of education and training.
“If we improve the competitiveness of our labour force, we should be able to export a lot more of our labour to the global market,” Mr Muturi said.
Kenya locks out young and low-paid foreign workers *- Corporate News*|businessdailyafrica.com