16 March 2018

Namibia: Call for Social Protection of Informal Sector

Windhoek — President of the Trade Union Congress of Namibia, Paulus Hango, has appealed to the government to extend social protection benefits to the self-employed and the majority of workers employed in the informal economy.

Hango said the formal social security system in Namibia depends on employees and employers' contributions on a monthly basis. As a result, the unemployed and the informally employed are not contributing or they contribute irregularly.

He said since the unemployed do not benefit, it is government's responsibility to include the informal sector in the social security programmes.

"Social protection can help people meet immediate basic needs in times of crisis. It has proven to reduce poverty and vulnerability, building human capital, empowering women and girls and improving livelihoods. However, many informal sector workers and unemployed people do not have access to such benefits and, as a trade union, we need to discuss how we can help them," Hango said.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines social protection as the protection that society provides its members through a series of public measures to cushion them against economic and social distress. The distress could be caused by the stoppage or substantial reduction of earnings resulting from sickness, maternity, employment injury, unemployment invalidity, old age and death, the provision of medical care and the provision of subsidies for families and children.

According to the statistics by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), over 27 percent workers in Namibia (the majority of the Namibian working age group) is excluded from the current structure of social protection. These include workers of informal enterprises, casual or day labourers, temporary or part-time workers, paid domestic workers, contract workers, unregistered or undeclared workers and those making a living as domestic workers.

Heiners Nauman, the FES resident representative, said although Namibia has a comprehensive social protection system compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa and indeed large parts of the developing world - as per the ILO 2014 report- only a few people benefit from social protection. The Namibian government avails benefits such as old age grants, disability grants, funeral grants, maintenance grant, special maintenance grant, foster care allowance and veterans' subvention.

The remaining 70 percent of the country's population that is in informal sectors such as vendors, agriculture, construction, woodwork and kapana sellers are left out.

He, therefore, said more needs to be done to ensure that workers in all sectors are covered by the country's social protection system.

Hango and Nauman made the remarks at the opening of a two-day workshop for trade unions on social protection in Windhoek that ended yesterday.

The aim of the workshop was to build the capacity of workers' representatives in social protection systems and actuarial studies as well as to share views among workers' representatives to ensure the development of the social insurance system on a sound scientific basis.

The workshop served as a platform for exchanging and updating information among trade unions on issues regarding social protection in Namibia, the principals underlying the international labour standards, International Social Security Conversation, No. 102 of 1952 and other best global practices.

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