• September 27th, 2020
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Covid-19 crisis defers SSC benefit increases to 2021

There is no doubt that the economic impact of Covid-19 has negatively affected the Social Security Commission’s (SSC’s) funds due to a significant decrease in contributions brought about by increased unemployment and unprecedented business closures. This was according to Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation, Utoni Nujoma, who spoke yesterday at the SSC Annual Strategic Review in Windhoek.  

“May I assume that this has resulted in a decrease in Social Security membership and social protection coverage? I was informed that one offshoot of the crisis is that the Commission will have to defer the planned increases in maternity, sick and death fund benefits until next year,” said Nujoma. 

As the keynote speaker at the annual review, Nujoma congratulated the SSC for stepping up to alleviate the heavy impact of Covid-19 on low-paid workers, the unemployed and on businesses. 

“You entered the battle against Covid-19 with a suite of ideas intended to support the government’s objectives of minimising retrenchments and business closures, achieving a minimal level of income security and at the same time increasing Social Security Commission membership among informal workers. I want to know how SSC did it. SSC needs a thorough analysis of the reach and effectiveness of the National Employment and Salary Scheme introduced through the SSC’s partnership with the Ministry of Finance. This will undoubtedly aid future labour and employment policy-making and national planning,” Nujoma stated. While admitting that inclusivity will be a major challenge in the provision of social security benefits, Nujoma urged the Commission to ensure that no one is left behind in the area of social protection. 
Said Nujoma: “Of course, you cannot achieve this alone, but you can coordinate with and provide guidance to other key institutions in the public and private sectors to achieve these goals. I am confident that we can achieve our vision.” The minister noted that yesterday’s annual review took place during a time of unprecedented unemployment and inequality. 

“The people are suffering. The impact of Covid-19 on Namibia has magnified for all to see the problems, the weaknesses and gaps in Namibia’s social and economic trajectory. Day by day, more and more people are questioning how or whether they can make it through the current crisis. Several gaps or challenges that are particularly significant for your deliberations today are the high degree of informality in the labour force and business environment, the increased level of unemployment, the absence of unemployment insurance, and the strains on the public healthcare system,” Nujoma emphasised. 

He added that the impact of Covid-19 underscores the SSC’s important role and its potential to make an even greater contribution to improve the well-being and security of Namibians. 
“I can pledge to you that I, as the line minister, my deputy, my special advisor and the management of the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation are prepared to intensify our efforts to support the work of the Commission, while respecting your autonomy and our distinct roles. The Social Security Commission should not hesitate to consider practical and effective ways that we can work better together in the interest of the welfare of our people,” Nujoma continued. 

Furthermore, the labour minister requested the SSC to consider the extension of social protection in some critical areas. These include: expanding social security coverage to the informal sector; establishing a national pension fund, as a matter of urgency; introducing unemployment insurance, as a matter of priority, providing inclusive and adequate maternity benefits for all working mothers; strengthening and expanding the development fund to support employment creation by streamlining cumbersome procedures; planning for the introduction of the national medical benefits fund;  and the earliest possible introduction of amended social security and employee compensation fund legislation.

Nujoma emphasised that the details of how these expansions can be implemented may require further discussion between the Commission and the ministry, in most cases at the level of senior officials. 
Nujoma continued that this closer collaboration between the labour ministry and the Commission is required, specifically regarding support for the informal economy. 
“In my opinion, the failure to provide social security benefits to workers in the informal economy is discriminatory,” Nujoma stressed.

Edgar Brandt
2020-08-11 11:37:01 1 months ago

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