Zambia Social Protection Week: Zambia Green Jobs Programme contributes to shaping policy debate on extension of social protection to the informal economy
During the first ever Zambia Social Protection Week, representatives of the Zambia Green Jobs Programme social protection component shared experience and best practices on how to extend social protection to workers in the informal economy.
Held under the theme "Achieving Prosperity for All" the Social Protection Week drew a broad range of stakeholders to discuss the role of social protection in Zambia's development. It was hosted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security together with the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare and was held from May 16-20 at the New Government Complex in Lusaka. The event included a series of sessions designed to share information and engage stakeholders in policy debate on different social protection thematic areas in Zambia. It was attended by government, employers and workers organisations, social security institutions, civil society organisations and academia.
On May 20 the Zambia Green Jobs Programme (ZGJP) hosted a session titled "Extending Social Security to the Informal Economy" during which experiences and best practices were shared on extending and promoting social protection amongst Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES) and informal workers in Zambia's building construction industry. In particular, a brief titled "MORE THAN BUSINESS ALONE: Extending and promoting social protection amongst MSMEs and informal workers in Zambia's building construction industry was officially presented. The brief outlines the approach, methodology and results obtained as part of the social protection sub-component of the ZGJP. The component is aimed at strengthening access to social protection for vulnerable workers and their families in the building construction sector by increasing awareness, coverage and compliance to social security standards. As a result of the discussions during the session, it was agreed that:
- Innovative strategies on the extension of social security to informal economy workers will need sound policy proposals and strategies based on in-depth knowledge of the informal economy;
- There is need for a complementary and unified approach in extension of social security to the informal economy;
- Social security programmes should take into account the peculiar needs and characteristics of workers in informal economy;
- Adequate financing modalities towards strategies on extension of social security coverage should be put in place;
- Extension of social protection coverage to informal economy workers should be seen as an investment promoting productivity and inclusive economic growth;
- The roll-out of social security schemes for informal workers should be done in a manner that reduces enforcement and promotes incentives to motivate compliance among beneficiaries.
Moving forward the listed outcomes will form input into discussions and development of the national strategy on extension of social protection to the informal sector.
In Zambia 83.9% of workers are employed in the informal economy (2014 Zambia Labour Force Survey). The vast majority of informal economy workers have unreliable incomes and lack access to any form of social protection. However, a growing body of evidence indicates that good working conditions enhances the productivity of workers and can contribute to employment creation through enterprise growth. A study commissioned by the ILO stated that "positive outcomes of good working conditions include reduced employee turnover, higher discretionary contributions by employees, improved productivity, profitability and higher levels of customer satisfaction and sales" (Croucher et al, 2013). Improving access to social protection and prevention of occupational accidents and diseases can contribute to savings in direct and hidden costs. Employees who are well covered by social security schemes are ultimately more likely to be loyal to their employers. This can add to increase workers' motivation, productivity and enterprise competitiveness.
In recent years, with the support of ZGJP, the Zambian government has embarked on social security reforms with the extension of social security coverage to informal sector workers as one of its strategic objectives. Lessons learnt under the ZGJP social protection component have contributed to dialogue and policy options for extension of social protection coverage and as a result, the recently developed Draft Social Protection Bill includes provisions of the extension of social protection systems to the informal economy.
Extension of Social Protection to Workers in the Informal Economy in Zambia
This summary report proposes strategic options to extend social protection to workers in the informal economy in Zambia. It summarizes the lessons learnt across four field research studies on domestic workers, small scale farmers, saw mill workers and construction workers who are usually excluded from any form of social protection.