The Platform for Social Protection has called for increased coverage of social protection programmes in Zambia especially for the majority poor.
In a note, PSP Zambia Country Coordinator Mutale Wakunuma observed that majority of Zambians have been excluded from social protection because they work in the informal sector.
She was reacting to findings of the World Social Protection Report 2014/15: Building economic recovery, inclusive development and social justice which showed that that most people are without adequate social protection at a time when it is most needed.
The report also showed that more than 70 per cent of the world population is not adequately covered by social protection.
Ms. Wakunuma said the report is unwavering when considered in the context of Zambia with a slightly worse tilt as the reality for Zambia is that much more depressing than the global reality.
She said the report findings are unsurprising relating to global coverage of social protection adding that the report uncovers the low levels of social protection coverage showing that over 70 percent of the world population is not reached by comprehensive social protection.
Ms. Wakunuma added that this is made apparent by the high levels of income inequality globally that continue to threaten societies and social cohesion.
“The ILO Social Protection Expenditure Review of 2008 revealed that overall in Zambia around 4 percent of the population is covered by social protection programs,” she said.
Ms. Wakunuma added, “This is made worse not only when considered against the high levels of poverty that would justify increased expenditure in social protection but also when considered against the adequacy of such programs and how they respond to poverty and employment realities in Zambia.”
She observed that the report is structured very elaborately by function which reveals that programs targeting the elderly, health or indeed children and families in Zambia are limited and exclude large sections of the population.
“The exclusion also of the informal sector, which in Zambia is the biggest employer, is just as worrying as people in the informal sector are characteristically exposed to insecure, low paying jobs.”
She added, “This is made worse not only when considered against the high levels of poverty that would justify increased expenditure in social protection but also when considered against the adequacy of such programs and how they respond to poverty and employment realities in Zambia.”
She continued, “The package of social protection programs in Zambia, broadly categorized as contributory and non-contributory reach only a small portion of the vulnerable and poor in Zambia. The formal contributory schemes are more elaborate than the non-contributory programs although these too are limited in scope as they focus mostly on the provision of protection against the loss of income resulting from retirement, disability and death.”
Ms. Wakunuma also observed that working women are also often excluded as they are predominantly in informal jobs adding that the majority of working people lack adequate social security coverage.
“Further non-contributory programmes in Zambia such as the Public Welfare Assistance Scheme (PWAS), and the nascent Social Cash Transfer Schemes implemented under the PWAS; the Food Security Pack (FSP), the School-Feeding Programme, and Project Urban Self-Help among others, which are intended to provide assistance to a wide range of poor and vulnerable groups, actually have significantly low effective scope of coverage,” she said.
Ms. Wakunuma, “In all cases these programmes reach only a small portion of the vulnerable groups. The existing health care system is inequitable although, the Government has removed the payment of user-fees for particular vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children and the rural population for primary care.”