ZAMBIA Institute for Labour Research and Development board chairperson Cosmas Mukuka says in many African countries including Zambia, the social contract with the people to deliver services to the people has been abused and simply broken.
During the validation workshop for ZILARD/FES research report on the mapping of the informal economy and their specific needs, Mukuka in a speech read for him by ZCTU deputy secretary general finance Joy Beene said enterprises and individuals were either excluded from critical state benefits or they have exited from the state and the formal rules perceiving such rules as effectively rigged against their interests.
He said essentially most people were excluded from social protection programmes.
Mukuka said it was now undeniable that the informal economy plays a critical role in the lives of millions of individuals worldwide.
He said it provides livelihood opportunities for the urban poor and rural households, while at the same time serving as a buffer between employment and unemployment.
Mukuka said ZILARD, the trade union movement, and many progressive strategic partners in Zambia, Africa, and the world, took the view that informality was a fundamental feature of underdevelopment and had economic, political and social dimension.
“We are all aware that in economic terms, the failure of economic growth to translate into sustainable and participatory development that creates decent employment in the formal sector is at the heart of the expanding informal economy,” Mukuka said.
He said the Zambian situation was not any different.
Mukuka said this had been the result of inappropriate macro-economic policies implemented across Africa in the last three decades that regards growth as an end in itself.
He said at the social level, mass illiteracy combined with low skills, even among the educated, partly explained the expanding informal economy.
Mukuka said it had been confirmed by the report that significant proportion of people entering the labour market lacked the necessary education and skills the modern labour market required.
He said politically, informality reflected the failure of the state in Zambia and Africa as a whole.
“Therefore, even as we dedicate ourselves to international efforts to formalise the informal economy, it was imperative to recognise that the informal economy with all its shortcomings continues to play a critical role in the lives of the many people in Zambia,” he said.
Mukuka said as the formal economy continued to falter, informal jobs provided the only means to a livelihood for the majority Zambians.
He said accordingly, efforts for transitioning should be about enhancing the potential of the informal economy rather than dimming it.
Mukuka said extending social protection to informal economy workers would improve their living conditions.
He said informality in all its dimensions was linked to the living conditions of majority of Zambians – conditions that were shaped by the underdeveloped nature of communities, local economies and polity.
Mukuka said there was need to focus firmly on the broader economic, social and political issues that underpinned underdevelopment and nourish informality in Zambia and the world.
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung resident director Helmut Elischer, in a speech read by FES rights based social protection programme manager Precious Ng’onga, said social security was a human right.
Elischer said the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that, “Everyone as a member of society, has a right to social security and is entitled to the realisation, through national effort and international cooperation in accordance with the organisation and resources of each state, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and free development.”
He said FES appreciated the government’s political will to strengthen social security in Zambia which was evident through the implementation of the social protection policy.