Need for Advancing Social Protection to Uganda Workers

By Agatha Namirembe Arembe

The Covid-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have devastating impacts of the lives, livelihoods and learning of millions of people particularly the most vulnerable. While efforts are rightly focused on mitigating the immediate impacts, we need to start thinking of how to recover and re - build because actions taken now will have long lasting effects on the workers wellbeing, this is an effort that must be led by government, but the workers leaders, employers, and the labour movement have a critical role to play.
It is critical for NSSF to advance part of the social protection savings to workers for the post lockdown recovery Access to social protection is a human right, not a charity and a key critical policy tool recognized in the Sustainable Development Goals and in Uganda’s National Development Plan II as well as Vision 2040. However, majority of Ugandans still find it difficult to access social protection especially those largely employed in the informal economy. The limited awareness on social protection right for workers poses a big challenge to the Uganda labour force leading to high participation in unpaid care work, low payments due to high illiteracy levels, low self-esteem in societies. As a result, women do not benefit from old age pensions, health insurance, and maternity benefits. Despite the existence of social protection legal and institutional frameworks and policies, the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development have not prioritized financing social protection interventions with belief that there are no economic returns to the economy.
There have been efforts to implement some interventions both contributory - National Social Security Funds (NSSF), Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF), private health insurance and non-contributory schemes - public works programs and social assistance grant for empowerment (SAGE) in Uganda but target a limited number of people and mainly donor supported. Social protection is very vital among workers as it guards them against risks and vulnerabilities including but not limited to health – illnesses, injuries and accidents, disasters – drought, floods and hunger, economic – unemployment and poverty, social, political and environmental risks. Government should strike a balance between investments in infrastructures and human development of which social protection is inclusive. There is need for government to bench mark what has worked in other countries such as India, Kenya, Ghana, among others to inform social protection interventions for the majority of people in Uganda’s informal economy.
As much as Uganda recognizes social protection as critical for sustained poverty reduction and inclusive growth, there is need for widely extending of pension coverage to informal economy workers in Uganda. There is need to bring on board new retirement benefit schemes for largely neglected self-employed and informal economy workers through innovative products that encourage flexible collection methods and increased public awareness on the retirement benefits especially among the rural population to encourage uptake and inclusiveness ■

About the Author
Ms Agatha Namirembe Arembe is National Chairperson Uganda Public Employees Union and
Aspiring Workers Member of Parliament