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UNDP seeks to strengthen social protection for workers in the informal economy




UNDP seeks to strengthen social protection for workers in the informal economy
AFRICA. In a report made public Wednesday, February 10, 2021, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) calls for a strengthening of social protection for workers in the informal economy on the African continent.

Stressing their "vulnerability", especially in this period of pandemic, this text, written in collaboration with the ILO (International Labour Organization), notes that in sub-Saharan Africa, 82% of the inhabitants, a large proportion of whom work in the informal economy, do not have access to a social protection system. Informal employment accounts for 86% of total male employment and 92% of female employment in this region. It concerns nearly 90% of young people.

However, the UNDP notes that "in recent years, African governments have made efforts to put in place a range of contributory social protection schemes to cover workers in the informal economy. It also presents several case studies from six countries* that are pioneers in this area.

Tunisia's Ahmini program targets the approximately 500,000 women workers in rural areas who are engaged in low-paying activities as family workers or self-employed workers on their own account. They are therefore unable to pay fixed contributions, which are too high in relation to their income, or predefined contributions because of their irregular income. Since 2016, the Ahmini program ("protect me" in Arabic) provides them with access to health care, coverage against work-related accidents and a retirement pension. All this for a minimum contribution of 1 dinar (30 eurocents) with the objective of raising this sum to 20 dinars (€6.13) per month and per beneficiary.

"Using social protection tools to combat inequalities in Africa"

In Rwanda, an Eja Heza ("bright future") pension scheme has been offered since 2017 by the Social Security Council to 100,000 informal workers. Benefits are proportional to contributions paid (converted into a retirement pension when the member reaches age 55) and membership is voluntary.

In Zambia (88 percent of employment in the informal sector), the National Pensions Authority has since 2019 created the conditions for extending social protection to informal workers. It now benefits 18,000 people involved in several pilot projects affecting small farmers and self-employed workers in rural and urban areas.

While they represent so many models to be put in place on the African continent, all these initiatives are not enough, according to the authors of the report, who note the urgent need to "deploy innovative approaches on a large scale to increase coverage, while ensuring that emerging schemes are more financially sustainable by relying as much on employer and company contributions throughout the production chain as on worker contributions and public funding". They also call for "taking into account gender disparities in order to address inequalities in the labor market" to consider social protection "as part of an integrated package of measures aimed at increasing incomes, enhancing their security and improving the quality of jobs".

"While many African countries have put in place temporary measures to protect the incomes and livelihoods of vulnerable populations during the pandemic, there is an urgent need to ensure protection for all workers, regardless of their employment status. Covid-19 recovery strategies offer us a solution: using social protection tools to combat inequalities in Africa," says Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa.

* Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Zambia

 

Eric Apim


Wednesday, February 10th 2021



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