Social protection in Nepal: major concerns and opportunities
At certain points in their lives, people are exposed to illness, unemployment, natural disasters or other risks. The International Labor Organization said that by 2020, more than three-quarters of the world still lacked adequate social protection coverage and more than three billion people lacked social protection. They often fall into poverty, economic loss and are more vulnerable to social exclusion.
The status is quite similar in Nepal as well. In accordance with the fiscal program of the Government of Nepal.
The constitution guarantees social protection as a fundamental right to reduce poverty and vulnerability in Article 34. The Employment Law of 2018 was enacted to actualize a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. Contributory social protection rules have been implemented to promote fair labor relations, poverty reduction and industrial stability in accordance with the Social Security Law of 2018. Considering the importance of social protection, The government of Nepal has announced Mangsir 11 every year (November 27 this year) as Social Protection Day.
Social protection is a universally recognized fundamental human right and the latest invention in human development. It is an individual right and also a responsibility of the state which provides shelter during crises and vulnerabilities. However, the contribution-based social protection fund launched by the Nepalese government as a socialist-oriented program has not yet achieved the expected success.
While the actions taken by the government so far are laudable, the country still needs to do much more to realize the dream of social protection and social justice as envisioned in the constitution.
What the government should do
Although there are many provisions for workers in the formal (civilian) sector, the case of workers in the informal sector, which comprises over 84% of the population, still needs to benefit from social protection mechanisms. Therefore, social protection should be made not only for some beneficiary communities but also for all stakeholders.
To develop tools for prevention, protection, promotion and transformation, social protection must be equal for all, centered on education, health and employment for the elderly, healthy and unhealthy communities, rich and poor. At the same time, 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 question of political will than of the economic capacity of the country. Subsequently, to increase public investment in social protection, reduce poverty and risks and put in place social protection action plans, the role and ownership of the different stakeholders are required, in order to that stakeholders can be involved in formal discussions and that help is needed. to establish meaning in them.
A policy of affirmative action has been adopted for Dalits, single women, the elderly and people in certain remote areas. But, single women under the age of 60 and severely disabled people, who received benefits in the past, have been denied benefits due to the provisions of the new law. In the event that single women over 60 are still included among eligible seniors, there appears to be an injustice against single women under 60. This should be clarified immediately as there will be a situation where someone gets a double benefit and someone doesn’t.
Although Annex 9 of the Constitution of Nepal lists social protection as a common right at federal, state and local levels, the Social Security Act only clarifies the role of local governments and reduces the role of the state. central to zero. The federal government should also be involved in managing the distribution of this allowance, which is the largest in terms of recipients and budget among cash transfer-based social assistance programs. In doing so, the necessary legal arrangements should be made, taking into account the division of labor in accordance with the constitution and increasing the efficiency of the program.
Although there is a Ministry of Women, Children and the Elderly to do the work for the benefit of the citizens designated as beneficiaries by the law on social protection, the maintenance of a department under the ministry of Interior responsible for the distribution of allowances does not seem appropriate in terms of efficiency. The government should correct this confusion.
The Nepalese Government Social Welfare Council called on all non-governmental organizations to join the National Social Security Fund through a public notice on August 10, 2010. However, the Social Welfare Civil Society Network has demanded the necessary changes to the Social Protection Act, Rules, and Procedures. Indeed, the provision not to obtain a facility after three months of deposit in the fund is impractical and unfair to employees.
What employers and entrepreneurs should do
The government is also an employer and there are different employers in the private sector. In this context, there is no uniformity between the facilities offered by the two types of employers. If we look at the current situation of the difference in salary between one bank and another, it seems that there is a need to find a balance. According to the principle of equal pay for equal work, it seems appropriate to make equal incentives. For good labor relations, poverty reduction and industrial stability, all workers should receive minimum wages, letters of appointment, identity cards, safe workplaces and social protection funds in accordance with labor legislation.
Job should not be taken away from workers for any reason like Covid-19. Regular disinfection of the workplace and regularization of employment with adequate and appropriate provisions for the health care of workers are necessities.
What unions should do
Workers in the informal work sector should benefit from labor rights and trade union education and facilitate their enrollment in social protection, freeing them from the illusion that the benefits are taken away from them when they come to the Fund. social security while workers benefit from loans at lower interest rates under the current pension scheme. At the same time, workers in crisis should be facilitated to increase access to available state services and facilities.
Integrate the issue of workers affected by traditional slavery systems such as haruwa-charuwa, haliya, kamaiya and balighare, and modern slavery (child labor, domestic work, adult recreational sectors, workers employed abroad) in the social protection system by including them in social dialogues.
Only by doing so can the trilateral participation and understanding of government, employers and contributing unions succeed 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.
Section 116 of the Labor Act 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 by law for the continuation of negotiations at the establishment level regarding labor rates. contribution and facilities.
What civil society should do
Social protection is a multifaceted and dynamic concept. Therefore, a civic campaign should be launched to spread awareness of the concept that this is the right of ordinary people and not the charity of the employer. At the same time, in the context of implementing a contribution-based social security program, the role of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in advancing state policy towards a perpetual social protection system, focusing on the concept of social protection floor, should play a role.
Through the contribution-based social protection scheme, all workers in the formal and informal sectors should play a supporting role in the social protection campaign to build a life of dignity and secure a future by freeing them from social and economic risks.
The Social Welfare Fund will provide medical treatment in the event of illness, comprehensive treatment in the event of an accident, a lifetime disability pension, a dependent pension in the event of death and tuition fees for the child and a life pension in the event of old age. It must be legally guaranteed. Civil society must make its voice heard for this.
Social protection is a universal concept of public welfare. To give meaningful answers to the questions raised regarding the implementation of this concept in Nepal, the government and the fund must ensure that social protection is guaranteed at all times. The Labor Law and the Social Security Law made the Social Protection Fund compulsory for areas where the Labor Law is applicable. However, since the issue of making it voluntary was also raised, it seems appropriate to end the confusion by having a broad discussion among stakeholders on this issue. Since social protection is an important responsibility of the welfare state, we must move forward to solve the problems.
The main objective of social protection is to ensure the safety of food, housing and clothing for workers as well as to pay more attention to areas where there is widespread exploitation of employment, without even providing basic and minimum wages. All stakeholders must work together to implement this.
The authors are associated with the Civil Society Network for Social Protection.