Make Social Protection accessible in the informal sector
As the world prepares to commemorate the World Women’s Day 2019, under the theme “Empowering women through innovative approaches to social protection; a prerequisite for inclusive and sustainable development”, it critical to note that the labour force in the informal sector stands at 90%, according to the Uganda National Household Survey, 2016/17 in Uganda.
More so, 61% of those in all forms of employment are said to be engaged in vulnerable employment, with 71% of these being women. Much as the Sustainable Development Goal 8.8 decrees that countries protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments of all workers, including migrant workers, particularly women migrants, and those in precarious employment, Uganda continues to grapple with lack of more inclusive and diverse workplaces; equal pay for work of equal value; maternity protection; employment of persons with disabilities and the minimum social protection standards, among others issues.
The situation has been exacerbated by the bigger part of the informal sector not being insufficiently supported by Government, not regulated and often characterized with noncompliance with the basic labour and employment standards leading to multiple rights violations and abuses of workers in this sector. The working conditions in which most of the workers operate are also synonymous with meagre earnings, low productivity and hazardous conditions of work that undermine workers’ fundamental rights.
In addition, there is increased non-compliance by employers in the private companies such security companies, private schools, factories among others to adhere to the employment and labour standards as are outlined in the Employment Act 2006 and the International Labour Convections which is typical for limited awareness and appreciation of labour law provisions that predisposes workers to unfair terms of employment.
As if that’s not enough distress, statistics continue to persistently reveal that women constitute the poorest of the world poor and even those in employment are faced with numerous barriers that hinder their full potential to contribute to national economy. Women in the labour market are faced with a number of problems that range from gender inequality, discrimination, exposure to precarious work, sexual harassment which marginalizes them further.
Similarly, the reproductive role of women to many of the employers has been labelled an inconvenience with an insinuation that some entitlements such maternity provisions impact negatively to their overall productivity and many times, women in the reproductive age bracket have been marginalized, and at worst unfairly terminated during the course of their employment as they are busy nursing their young ones.
Furthermore, the representation of women in labour and particularly in top leadership roles is still low where men are preferred even in scenarios when women possess the equally desirable qualifications. This is partly because society still regards women as inferior and secondary citizens which deprives them to take part in the decision-making processes and hence remain with little or no influence to tackle specific concerns that would improve their social-economic status.
When it comes to the social protection, women still lag behind due to the natural, health and economic risk factors they face since the commonest forms of social preserves are mainly contributory and primarily accessed through formal employment making it very difficult to be accessed by the majority of the workers in the informal settings where the majority are still the women. However, even in the formal sector, the social protection uptake for women is still low as compared to their male counterparts e.g. National Social Security Fund-NSSF stands at 53% for male and 47% female respectively.
The different government ingenuities to address social protection such as the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development (MGLSD)’s Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) and the Youth Livelihood Fund, Uganda Retirement Regulatory Authority-(URBRA), The Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) and those in the private sector have also not ably addressed the chronic poverty and vulnerability for both the poor men, and women in Uganda.
This calls for the dire need for the deliberate effort to create flexible and accessible spaces to expand social protection in terms of sustainable financing, inclusiveness through a combination of economic planning and growth, domestic resource mobilization but most importantly to advocate for voluntary contributory initiatives such in the health sector, more enrollment in the business approaches like KACITA, MAZIMA retirement packages, among others. Ugandans should collectively participate in the efforts to demand for better and quality service delivery as another terrain towards realizing social protection to address the larger pockets of vulnerability for the disadvantaged populations such as People with Disabilities older persons, youth, and women.
Be it as it may, sustainable development may be far from reach unless there is equity and equality and decent work opportunities and conditions for all Ugandans. Happy Women’s Day2019.
The author is the Advocacy and Communications Officer for Platform for Labour Action-PLA