Informal sector workers deprived of social security

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Jun 24, 2014-

Workers in the informal sector have no social security despite their significant contribution to national income. And lack of proper statistics about them has not helped efforts to bring them under the safety net, said experts.

An International Labour Organization (ILO) report shows that more than 70 percent of Nepal’s economically active population is engaged in the informal sector. Most of them work in agriculture, construction or other service businesses including tailoring and domestic work while a number of them operate as street vendors. Since the government has been planning to introduce a social security scheme, and it will be necessary to create a database of informal workers, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) has started work to collect data about informal workers.

“We have been planning to endorse a national level strategy which will also include data about informal workers,” said Bikash Bista, director general of the CBS, speaking at a programme on informal sector workers.

Currently, efforts are being focused on providing social security to workers in the formal sector while their buddies in the informal sector have been ignored. The Social Security Fund, which has collected around Rs 6 billion to launch a universal social security scheme, plans to start with workers in the formal sector. Its schemes will include unemployment allowance, compensation for accidents at the workplace, maternity care and medical facilities.

Khila Nath Dahal, president of the Nepal Trade Union Congress, said a number of informal workers were engaged even in big corporate houses. “They include workers in low profile jobs such as gardener, cleaner and office assistant,” Dahal added.

He said that the government should issue identity cards to these workers to make the social protection programme effective.

Dave Spooner, director at the Global Labour Institute, UK, said most of the informal sector workers in Nepal had been struggling to manage their subsistence requirement. “As they are not organized, they lack the collective bargaining power for higher wages, and they have also been deprived of the facilities being provided by the government,” said Spooner. He cited examples of the good living conditions of informal sector workers in a number of countries including Ghana and Bulgaria.  Jose Assalino, director of ILO Nepal, said social security coverage would help increase their productivity. He also stressed the need to increase the productivity of these workers for their financial security.

“Due to lack of government policy, the workers are subjected to exploitation and deprived of many fundamental rights at work,” said the report.

Published: 25-06-2014 08:51

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