Sector dialogue on challenges and potential solutions for extension of social protection coverage in the saw milling industry
The Social Protection component of the Zambia Green Jobs Programme organized a sector dialogue with the saw milling industry and Zambian Social Protection Providers from 28th to 30th October 2014.
The meeting which was held in Kitwe was meant to provide a platform for stakeholders to dialogue on gaps, challenges, limitations and facilitate joint search for practical solutions to promote extension of social protection coverage for workers in the building construction industry.
The meeting was attended by 28 participants comprising representatives from Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Ministry of Health, National Pension Scheme Authority, Workers Compensation Fund Control Board, Zambia National Association for Saw Millers and Copperbelt Saw Millers and Timber Growers Association.
The dialogue increased participants understanding and knowledge regarding gaps, challenges and need for social protection in the saw milling industry. The main challenges identified relating to the requirements for registration, lack of awareness and sensitisation on social protection within the saw milling sector leading to lack of knowledge and understanding on importance of social protection by employers and employees. The sector is characterised by irregular employment contracts which is worsened by irregularity of income among workers. Poor employees record keeping among employers as most of the workers are employed on casual basis. This does not allow regular contributions to pension schemes especially that the current pension system is based on traditional social insurance model resulting into non qualification for benefits. Social security registration is also considered as a cost due to penalties charged for non-remittance of contributions despite the fact that enterprises may be out of business. The requirements and process for claiming benefits was identified as a disincentive for registration with social security schemes. Currently the social security schemes provide for meagre levels of benefits that do not incentivise participation among saw milling industry.
The dialogue culminated into development of road maps that included both short term and long term practical solutions to enhance extension of social protection coverage to the saw milling sector. In the immediate term the stakeholders agreed that social security institutions (WCFCB and NAPSA) will conduct social security awareness information fares and campaigns tailored to the saw milling sector before end of the year 2014. Institutions will also translate awareness materials and registration forms to improve social security awareness. Social security institutions agreed to bring the services closer to the sector through introduction of mobile offices meant to ease accessibility of services to the saw milling sector. Other solutions included designing flexible payment plans/ introduction of rebates for the penalties and ensuring social security identity cards to facilitate portability of contribution rights for casual workers. Other long term solutions included amendment of the WCFCB and NAPSA Acts to provide for adjustment of contributions, improved level of benefits, introduction of incentives and appropriate benefits to enhance coverage of the sector.
In order to strengthen the capacity and knowledge of stakeholders the ZGJP will support implementation of the road map in collaboration with the social security institutions and the saw milling industry through the development of Implementation Agreements. It is expected that the identified solutions will be replicated in extension of coverage to other groups in the construction sector.