Informal sector insecurity threat to SDGs


The chaotic set-up at Glen View Area 8 home industry complex seems to reflect the torture that the hub for Small to Medium Enterprise operators has gone through after being ravaged by fires over the years. Reports put at 13 the number of occasions when fires have torched different portions of the complex over the years albeit with no real pointers to the cause of the fires.

Mr Clever Makatare aged 33, a budding carpenter with a sofa-making business, has been witness to these fires with his business being razed on two occasions.
The first encounter was in 2012 and the latest being on November 19, last year.

And without any form of insurance which entails a long term pool of savings managed and invested for the future, he has struggled to rebuild the business to its thriving state on each occasion of these incidences.

Worse still putting into consideration that he is an employer of at least seven people making the possibility of losses direr than can be imagined.

On both occasions Mr Makatare had to sell nine cattle to salvage his business whose worth he pegged at $48 000 before the prevailing loss of value in currency.

This is one of many insecurities that pose a challenge to him operating and expanding his business to other areas comfortably.
A lack of operating licences among many unattainable conditions disqualifies him as many others at this complex to get capital injection from money lenders or contribute for insurance packages that can secure the future of their businesses and families.

In addition, the future is uncertain as they face threats now and again to be removed from the complex by unknown officials from the Harare City Council.

A shadow of its former glory, the complex once gated and walled is now an open space, vulnerable to all forms of misdemeanours which include wares being stolen.

With all these insecurities thinking about making pension contributions or other insurance packages to cushion his future in the event of being incapacitated at work or desires to retire is a secondary issue for Mr Makatare.

“Yes we like this issue about pensions but those are most appropriate for those in formal employment who have a payslip and money is deducted to secure their future.

“My future is that my business should expand more and then I can take care of my family. I should be joining those pension or insurance payouts but for now my concern is to ensure my business picks-up or at least gets to half of where it was operating before,” the father of five said.

He highlighted that as an informal businessperson meeting conditions to qualify for insurance packages is a daunting task which kills their appetite to pursue this route.

An estimated minimum of 400 people operate their small to medium enterprises at the complex and could be harbouring a similar mindset about insurance and pensions.
It is not a priority.

Yet according to Zimstats (2015) 94,5 percent of the country’s labour force is in the informal sector and in dire need of social security cover.

Social security cover’s primary role is to smoothen consumption during the twilight years of individuals as a mitigation from old age poverty.

It ranges from health, general and life insurance/assurance as well as pensions.
The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) whose mandate is to administer every scheme and fund is working on a social security scheme for those operating in the informal sector.

NSSA Marketing and Communications executive, Mr Tendai Mutseyekwa said the Authority under the guidance of the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is soliciting for technical support from the International Labour Organisation in developing the scheme.

Using feed-back, the authority obtained from the market during stakeholder engagements, Mr Mutseyekwa said NSSA is revisiting the design and modelling of the proposed scheme for workers in the informal sector which ought to be able to stand the test of time.

“The absence of social security increases the vulnerability of citizens to fall or be trapped in poverty in the event of life cycle risks happening.

“There is need to educate all citizens, particularly those in the informal sector about the huge risk that they face by not being covered by social security.

“This education is necessary to enable citizens to see the light and appreciate social insurance. It is also important that NSSA, in coming up with the appropriate scheme design, involves the participation of the informal sector players so that there is adequate buy in and ownership,” Mr Mutseyekwa said.

In an unpredictable economic environment as one that has prevailed in Zimbabwe mainly in the past decade which saw pension payments losing value, Mr Mutseyekwa said there needed to be deliberate ways to manage pension losses.

“The pension fund losses can be managed going forward by investing part of the contributions in offshore investments in order to hedge against investments losses, pursuing investments in local opportunities that will generate foreign income primarily through exports, targeting assets that are linked to economic activity tracking inflation such shares in companies that have a positive relationship with economic activity and property investments and ensuring optimum property mix,” he said.

A lack of social security has far reaching consequences impacting on any nation’s ability to attain at least five of the 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals which are a universal call to action to end poverty among other aims by 2030.

From Goal One which speaks of ending all forms of poverty to Goal Eight which takes aim at pushing decent work and economic growth, social insecurity in the informal sector has a serious ripple effect especially on populations like Zimbabwe whose major labour force is in the informal sector.

Even further-reaching is the impact of the insurance industry on the economy as alluded to by Ipec executive assistant to the commissioner, Mr Cuthbert Munjoma during a monthly media workshop held recently.

“World over, the insurance industry is the largest source of domestic financing — backbone of the economy. The industry pools resources, which can be invested over long periods of time,” he said noting that total contributions and premiums of the insurance and pension industry, including NSSA increased from US$375 million in 2009 to US$1,1 billion in 2015.
“On average, the sector mobilised US$866 million per annum in the first six years of dollarisation.

“If such pooled resources are properly managed, the sector could play a critical role in long-term savings mobilisation and investment,” Mr Munjoma said.–

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