Expert slams Botswana’s social protection nets

Portia Nkani
Tuesday, 02 May 2017
Dr Moatshe Dr Moatshe

Botswana needs a comprehensive social security policy and programmes for private sector workers, to reduce dependence on employer-based provision, says Business Botswana Chief Executive Officer, Dr Gracious Moatshe.

Business Botswana (BB) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) recently co-organised a seminar on “Employers participation in definition of social protection policies and programs for economic performance and inclusive growth.”

Moatshe indicated that in Botswana, the social protection system is in its nascent stage. “It is imperative for us, the private sector to comprehend and appreciate that social protection packages allow us to attract quality, motivated and committed employees.

Botswana is not immune to global financial-economic crisis and globalisation effects as reflected in the rising levels of poverty, inequality and inflationary pressures. Consequently, this presents a compelling case for workers to demand attractive social protection packages and certainly, Botswana is not spared.

He however indicated that, as a global trend, employers in Botswana are progressively taking active part in the development of social protection by preparing to better understand, influence and build, their business case for social protection.
Engaging on the subject, Dr Keith Jefferis observed that there are more

social protection nets spending in Botswana but the “effectiveness is very low, as many are badly designed and wrongly targeted.” 
He said it is a challenge for a farmer to get a labourer in rural areas, whereas in towns and cities people get paid for sitting under trees at Ipelegeng. “There is lack of employment and slow pace of creating employment in Botswana. Social schemes can be a major barrier to employment creation, hence a gap in the labour market Botswana.”

An attendant, Louis suggested that policy makers should consider changing the law on insurance to protect employees even in retirement or when they lose jobs. He decried that the insurance cover of someone employed for ten years, lapses if he loses a job for a year. And once he gets a new job, he is asked to start a new insurance cover.

Botswana’s Commissioner of Labour, Keabonye Selebatso told participants that Botswana invests significantly in social protection compared to other countries in the region, “which results in inadequate coverage and benefits to tackle poverty and vulnerability”.

She said government is working tirelessly to finance the gaps in social protection to ensure that key AU 2063 Agenda “To eradicate poverty” is achieved.
Selebtaso said social protection policies provide security for workers facing various life contingencies throughout their lifetime. Without proper social protection, various life events can have adverse effects on workers’ well-being and productivity, which can cause important costs for both workers and employers.

There are various risks and contingencies during a workers’ life course that can disrupt business operations if not properly managed, advised Selebatso.
However, she highlights that if adequate social protection benefits are in place, and are well managed, these may result in win-win situations for both workers and employers. For example:
Maternity protection plays an important role in protecting the health of both the mothers and children, but can also increase female Labour market participation, morale, productivity, and result in lower turnover and training costs.

Ensuring effective access to health care contributes not only to maintaining or to improving workers’ health status, but it also contributes to a fully efficient and productive workforce and lowering the costs of work days missed due to illness. Employment injury protection ensures access to health care, rehabilitation and income security in the case of a work accident or occupational disease; in the case of collectively financed compensation mechanisms (social insurance) also protects employers from financial risks and provides more stable cash flows out.

Some of Botswana’s social protection initiatives
Government of Botswana provides a wide range of services for families and children, aimed at reducing poverty as well as providing a social safety net for individuals, vulnerable groups (Youth & Women) and families.  Botswana is one of the few countries in Africa that fully funds the social protection programmes out of own resources, and dedicates a significant part of its GDP to this endeavour.
Some of the social protection programmes include Ipelegeng; Youth Schemes (Government Voluntary Scheme, Youth Development Fund, Young Framers Fund; Government House Appeal. The government also provides Old age pension that provides financial security to the elderly citizens who otherwise are without means of support due to the disintegration of the extended family support system.
There is also Cash and in-kind assistance for destitute persons and families who take care of orphans and School feeding for primary and secondary school pupils: to provide prepared food to children to alleviate short term hunger thereby enhancing classroom learning.

Understanding unemployment and inequality
Professor Alex van den Heever, Chair in the field of Social Security Wits School of Governance explains that unemployment and inequality is a function of the distribution of capabilities.
 The inadequate distribution of capabilities results in structural unemployment, which then cause the detected levels of poverty and inequality through its impact on the primary distribution of income.
Low levels of growth, resulting from inadequate savings levels (due to the high general propensity to favour consumption over savings), restricts society’s ability to rapidly expand capabilities and to achieve a better secondary distribution of income
Prof. Alex further indicates that, structural unemployment is also driven by labour market inflexibility and structurally high wage settlements, resulting in Employer incentives to  favour capital over labour – lowering the job security of unskilled workers; Increasing the cost of low-productivity service sectors and their ability to absorb surplus low-skilled workers.

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