Friday, April 18, 2008
By Mutale Kapekele in Livingstone
Friday April 18, 2008 [04:00]
AFRICAN governments should come up with systems that will ensure social protection for workers in the informal sector, South African Employment Condition Commission chairman Professor Evans Kalula has said. And Prof Kalula has said the right to employment for the disabled must be respected by all African countries.
Presenting a paper on social security laws in Africa at the ongoing conference for the Association of Law Reform Agencies of Eastern and Southern Africa (ALRAESA) in Livingstone on Wednesday, Prof Kalula said with the formal sector declining and the informal sector growing, it was important to have social protection for workers in this sector.
"People in informal work contribute to the economies of our nations and it is only fair that measures are put in place for these workers to have social protection especially in terms of health schemes," Prof Kalula said. "There is a growing trend in Africa of putting emphasis on the formal sector and the exclusion of the informal sector. Even where there are social security systems, these focus on the formal employees."
He said 50 per cent of populations in eastern and southern Africa were of working age with the majority in agriculture and the urban informal sector.
Prof Kalula said one way of providing social protection of the informal sector employees was by governments paying them for the tax revenues.
"The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has concluded that no country is too poor to help its citizens, so governments can intervene by providing basic needs for the vulnerable who are the majority in the informal sector," he said.
"If that is done, it will mean that even the vulnerable will somehow participate in economic development and they will have a sense of dignity that comes with taking care of oneself."
He said social protection was very important in countries like Zambia where, according to the human poverty index, 72.9 per cent of the population lived below the national poverty line.
Prof Kalula said despite the danger of creating an entitlement mentality, measures could be put in place to ensure that people did not exclusively live off the state.
"Yes there is a danger of creating an entitlement mentality but this is exaggerated in most cases and studies have shown in places like Botswana where the old are on government payroll that this helps to alleviate poverty," he said. "The problem is not the mentality but that people don't have the means to survive, that is the area in which they can be helped through social security."
And Prof Kalula, who is a Zambian professor in labour law and social security, said the right to employment for disabled people should be respected, as they were able to contribute to economic growth.
Prof Kalula said as long as one was able to work, they should be given a chance unless they proved that they were not productive.