Is a proletariat emerging in Nairobi
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Are there beginning to be substantial numbers in Nairobi who are wholly and permanently dependent upon wage employment, and -whose ties with their villages of origin have become severed? This paper looks first at the statistical evidence, and then at the evidence provided by sociologists and social anthropologists who have done relevant 'field' research in different parts of Nairobi. The statistical evidence is at first sight ambiguous & Labour turnover statistics imply that people are staying much longer than a decade ago, when, short term circular migration was still the common pattern. The more favourable ratio of men to women also points in the same direction. But the sex ratio, especially in the case of the over 30's is still greatly tilted towards male preponderances and the proportion of children - another index of 'stability' - is hardly higher than it was in 1962. It is only when one looks at the work of sociologists that the statistics begin to make sense, The work of Weisner, Ferraro and Parkin corroborates the statistical evidence of much longer residence in Nairobi, but shows that this in no sense implies any lessening of ties with rural homes. The high proportion of urban pay said to be remitted to families outside Nairobi is further evidence of these ties, as is the exceptional importance attached to having the longest possible holidays in order to be able to visit home. Those who arrive in Nairobi landless acquire land at the earliest opportunity, and only a small minority - mostly Kikuyu born in Nairobi - are totally enmeshed in the urban networks. These latter could perhaps be described as 'proletarians' -were it not for the awkward fact that most of them are petty capitalists in the 'informal' sector. The short answer, therefore, to the question posed in the title of this paper is 'no!; - but who is wanting a proletariat anyhow?