Informal sector workers need cover, too

John Manzonga At the Workplace
It is common knowledge that the majority are now employed in the informal sector where they are their own bosses. That sector is contributing greatly to the sustenance of the country’s economy. However, no one seems to have ever thought how these workers would survive when they retire.

The majority of these workers are involved in vending activities, furniture manufacturing, brick moulding, steelwork, public transport and many others. If we pause to think how these workers earn a living we can realise that every day of their life is a hustle, it is a struggle, one can never know whether he or she will return home.

They are at high risk of stress related deaths, accidents, tuberculosis and many other diseases.
Take for example vending, a sector mainly occupied by women, many of them with babies moving from car to car selling wares such as fruits, vegetables, drinks and water.

They are at risk of being overrun by vehicles or worse still the babies on their backs might fall and be hit by passing vehicles.
The vendors in cities such as Harare are daily involved in running battles with metropolitan police and in some cases they are killed or permanently injured by vehicles while running.

Don’t they need social security schemes where if injured, killed or disabled they will be entitled to something, having contributed to the development of the country?

Commuter omnibus operators are involved in running battles with Harare municipal police and Zimbabwe Republic Police for picking and dropping passengers in town.

Many might see them as a menace but don’t forget that the majority of workers in formal economy depend on them for transport to and from work on a daily basis.

Isn’t that contributing to the national economy?
We all cannot own private vehicles, and drive at the same time, surely?

Furniture manufacturers especially at Glen View sites in Harare are at risk of infections as they day in day out inhale hazardous dust and fumes yet they produce all the furniture in our houses. Government and other stakeholders should find a way to handle social security schemes for informal workers.

We can take a leaf from other African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Mauritius where such workers are able to group themselves and are covered by social security schemes.

Social protection is one issue that is so critical at the workplace but it seems many employers are not taking it seriously.
In Zimbabwe, the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) is mandated with the responsibility of ensuring all employers and employees contribute towards the scheme. However, the scheme seems to have many loopholes and people don’t seem to trust the authority.

Recent revelations in Parliament that the authority splashed US$23,7 million on employees as loans with eight top managers accounting for more than US$1,7 million paying an interest rate of a mere 3 percent per annum for top managers and 5 percent for other workers when the market rate stands at 7 percent, made sad reading.

NSSA seems to be putting more emphasis on improving top management’s welfare while pension benefits to old and retired workers remain low.
The money is classified under personal, vehicle, educational, long service and housing loans. Ninety percent of employees have been issued with housing loans.

Last week, legislators expressed concern and advised NSSA to consider contributors’ interests ahead of employees at the pension scheme.
Banks are charging 16 percent interest per annum on loans while the authority is charging 6,5 percent interest. The authority is not investing the contributed money in people’s best interest so that when they retire, the pension will be reasonable.

NSSA was set up primarily to look after the welfare of pensioners.
Pensioners are getting a paltry US$50 per month; so why are NSSA employees getting subsidised loan interests when pensioners are suffering?
The widows and orphans are getting US$30 per month.

This is a picture which many of us never pause to digest as we worry about our own immediate concerns.

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