Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation takes note of the disclosure on diminished contributions by the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) Deputy Director Tambudzai Jongwe in a weekly newspaper.
According to Ms. Jongwe, 1.8 million contributions to the social security scheme have been lost, largely due to the fact that these companies are either in liquidation, have retrenched or have closed shop. This would mean that these former employees are more likely than not seeking financial refuge in the informal sector. By NSSA’s own admission, over 76 percent of people are in the informal sector, controlling over 60 percent of the Zimbabwean economy.
It is heartening to hear that NSSA in partnership with International Labour Organisation (ILO) is working on technical modalities so they can begin covering the over 5.7 million people in the informal sector by the first quarter of 2022. Whilst we welcome this long overdue move, we are cautiously awaiting to see how the process will be undertaken as we are of the view that consultation with Informal Economy representative organisations must precede all other efforts in order to ensure inclusivity and buy in from the sector.
Part of the issues of concern which we will be keeping an eye on is that in its current format NSSA requires one to have been a contributor for 40 years, yet we all know this is impractical in today’s day and age. Besides, some of the people in the informal economy are former employees who were retrenched, having contributed to NSSA for various time periods over the years, yet they have never drawn any benefit from the Authority. The benefit threshold should also be urgently revised, for at an estimated USD 35, it cannot even cover the bare monthly essentials, without factoring costs such as medical care. It is our belief that the benefits should be tied to the cost of living estimates in order for them to benefit its recipients.
We believe that there is need for a wholesale revamp of the social security authority if it is to be relevant to the current economic times and that there must be widespread consultation with all stakeholders particularly people living with disabilities who have been left out of security schemes in the past, yet they constitute over 15 percent of the nation’s population.
VISET commits itself to supporting policy initiatives that are designed with the input and inclusion of all stakeholders, which seek to uplift the lives of people in the Informal Economy and the restoration of their dignity. Gone should be the days where pensioners continue working because they cannot draw any economically meaningful benefit in their old age.