At some points in their lives, people are exposed to illness, unemployment, natural disasters or other risks. The International Labor Organization says that by 2020, more than three quarters of the world still lacks adequate social protection and more than three billion people lack social protection. They often fall into poverty, economic loss and are more vulnerable to social exclusion.
The status is also quite similar in Nepal. The Constitution of Nepal has mandated allowance as the right to social protection for seniors, the economically poor, the Dalits, the helpless, the disabled, children, the severely handicapped, helpless single women and endangered caste according to the fiscal program of the government of Nepal.
The Constitution ensures social protection as a fundamental right to reduce poverty and vulnerability in Article 34. The Labor Act, 2018, was enacted to realize a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. The contributing social protection rules have been implemented to help for fair labor relations, poverty alleviation and industrial stability according to the Social Security Act, 2018. Considering the importance of social protection, the Government of Nepal has announced Mangsir 11 every year (November 27 this year). years) as the Day of Social Protection.
Social protection is a universally recognized fundamental human right and the latest invention of human development. It is an individual right and also a responsibility of the state to provide shelter in the event of crises and vulnerabilities. However, the contribution-based social protection fund launched by the government of Nepal as a socialist-oriented program has yet to achieve the expected success.
While the actions taken by the government so far are commendable, the country needs to do much more to realize the dream of social protection and social justice envisaged in the constitution.
What the government should do
While there are many benefits for workers in the formal (civil) sector, workers in the informal sector, who make up more than 84% of the population, still need to be provided with social protection schemes. Therefore, social protection should be provided not only to certain beneficiary communities, but also to all stakeholders.
To develop tools for prevention, protection, promotion and transformation, social protection must be equal for all, focusing on education, health and employment for seniors, healthy and unhealthy, rich and poor communities. Meanwhile, economic security, production and distribution and access to the labor market must be transformed into organizational structures that contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic development.
Investing in social protection is more a matter of political will than of the country’s economic capacity. In order to subsequently increase public investment in social protection, reduce poverty and risk and initiate social protection actions, the role and ownership of different stakeholders is required so that the stakeholders can be brought into formal discussions and help needed is to establish a sense of in them.
A positive discrimination policy has been adopted for Dalit, single women, senior citizens and people from some remote districts. But single women under the age of 60 and persons with severe disabilities, who have received benefits in the past, have not received benefits due to the provisions of the new law. In the event that single women over the age of 60 are still counted among the eligible seniors, there seems to be injustice against single women under the age of 60. It needs to be clarified immediately because there will be a situation where someone will get a double benefit and someone who will not get it.
While Schedule 9 of the Constitution of Nepal lists social protection as a common right of the federal, state and local levels, the Social Security Act only clarifies the role of the local governments and reduces the role of the central state to zero. The federal government should also be involved in managing the distribution of this allowance, which is the largest of the money transfer-based social assistance programs in terms of beneficiaries and budget. In doing so, the necessary legal arrangements should be made, taking into account the constitutional division of labor and increasing the effectiveness of the programme.
While there is a Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens to do the work on behalf of the citizens designated as beneficiaries by the Social Protection Act, it does not seem appropriate to have a department under the Ministry of the Interior responsible for the distribution of the grants. in terms of effectiveness. The government should correct this confusion.
The Government of Nepal Social Welfare Council has called on all non-governmental organizations to join the National Social Security Fund through a public notice on August 10, 2010. However, Social Protection Civil Society Network demanded necessary changes to the Social Protection Act, Rules, and Procedures. This is because it is impractical and unfair for the employees not to receive a facility after three months of investing in the fund.
What should employers and entrepreneurs do?
The government is also an employer and there are several employers in the private sector. In addition, there is no uniformity between the provisions of the two types of employers. Looking at the current situation of the salary differential between one bank and another, it seems that a balance has to be struck. According to the principle of equal pay for equal work, it seems appropriate to provide equal incentives. For good industrial relations, poverty alleviation and industrial stability, all workers must be assisted with minimum wage, appointment letters, identity cards, safe workplaces and social protection funds under the labor law.
Work should not be taken from employees for any reason, such as Covid-19. Regular disinfection of the workplace and regularization of employment with adequate and appropriate arrangements for workers’ health care are necessary.
What should the unions do?
Workers in the informal labor sector should be provided with labor rights and trade union education and facilitated to participate in the social protection system, so that they do not have the illusion that benefits are taken away when they go to the social security fund while employees use loans at lower rates. interest rates under the current pension scheme. At the same time, workers in crisis should be facilitated to increase access to state services and facilities.
Incorporating the issue of workers affected by traditional slavery systems such as haruwa-charuwa, haliya, kamaiya and balighare, and modern slavery (child labour, domestic work, adult recreation sectors, workers in foreign employment) into the social protection system by incorporating them into social dialogues.
Only by doing this, the trilateral participation and understanding of the government, employers and participating trade unions can be successful in building a prosperous country by integrating the life cycle of all citizens from pregnancy to old age in social protection to achieve prosperity, including social justice in building a welfare state.
Article 116 of the Labor Code, 2017, guarantees the right to collective bargaining. Since trade unions and employers are also represented on the board of directors of the Social Protection Fund, the right to collective bargaining should be protected as provided in the law for further negotiations at branch level on premium rates and facilities.
What civil society should do?
Social protection is a multifaceted and dynamic concept. Therefore, a citizens’ campaign needs to be launched to publicize the concept that it is the right of the common people and not the employer’s charity. At the same time, in the context of the implementation of a contribution-based social security program, the role of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in advancing state policies towards a permanent system of social protection, focusing on the concept of social protection should play a role.
Through the contribution-based social protection system, all workers in the formal and informal sectors should play a supporting role in the social protection campaign to build a dignified life and secure a future by freeing them from social and economic risks.
The Social Protection Fund provides medical treatment in the event of illness, full treatment in the event of an accident, lifelong pension in the event of incapacity for work, survivor’s pension in the event of death and tuition fees for the child, and lifelong pension in old age. It must be legally guaranteed. Civil society must make its voice heard for this.
Social protection is a universal general welfare concept. In order to provide meaningful answers to the questions raised about the implementation of this concept in Nepal, the government and the fund must ensure that social protection is always guaranteed. The Labor Act and the Social Security Act have made the Social Protection Fund mandatory for areas to which the Labor Act applies. However, since the issue of voluntary participation has also been raised, it seems appropriate to end the confusion by having a broad discussion of this issue among stakeholders. Since social protection is an important responsibility of the welfare state, we need to make progress to solve the problems.
The main purpose of social protection is to ensure the safety of food, shelter and clothing for the workers and to pay more attention to the areas where employment is widely exploited, without even providing basic and minimum wages. All stakeholders need to work together to implement this.
The authors are affiliated with the Social Protection Civil Society Network.