THE Government has started a process of designing a Universal Social Pension scheme (USP) that will enable all Tanzanians aged 60 and above to get a monthly stipend to sustain their living and reduce abject poverty.
The move follows a study conducted by Ministry of Labour and Employment in conjunction with HelpAge International, which revealed that it was possible to
provide a USP to all senior citizens in the country at affordable cost.
“Basically the Prime Minister and the President have agreed on this need for universal social protection scheme, and the ground work has started,” said the Assistant Commissioner for Labour (Social Protection) Mr David Kaali during the workshop on Friday in Dar es Salaam.
Mr Kaali said currently discussions are going on within government machinery, which will be followed by stakeholders’ comments, the cabinet and thereafter the bill will be tabled before the parliament.
“I still cannot tell you when it will be tabled but different ministries need to discuss among themselves to see who will be responsible for what when the scheme starts,” he said during the workshop organized by Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF).
According to the study, there are around two million people aged 60 in Tanzania and are present in almost one out of four households. Also 82 per cent reside in rural areas.
The HelpAge Country Programme Director, Mr Nicodemus Chipfupa, said that it was important for the government to introduce the USP scheme because older people are less able to earn adequate income through work, are more susceptible to chronic illness, disability and more likely experience social exclusion.
“Formal social security mechanisms have not reached the poor and are unlikely to offer a solution to old age poverty. Only 6.5 per cent of the workforce is currently covered by formal social security,” said Mr Chipfupa.
The study has suggested every older person to be paid up to16,586/- per month, which in total will consume 1.2 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product per annum.
The study which was conducted between November 2009 and April last year also revealed that if the USP will be implemented, it will reduce 58 per cent of the old age poverty (from 33 to 13.9 per cent) and could reduce up to 11.9 per cent of national poverty rate.
It is estimated that Tanzania has a labour force of 16 million, out of which 93.5 per cent are in the informal sector and 6.5 percent are in the formal sector, according to Mr Kaali.
It has been suggested by the study that registration and de-registration of beneficiaries of the new scheme should be implemented through the local government structures.
“Voter cards, village registers, letters issued by village or ward officers could be used to identify older people,” said the report of the study.
According to the HelpAge International Programme Manager (Social Protection) Mr Smart Daniel, Tanzanians could seize the opportunity for a new constitution to ensure that rights and entitlements of older people and other vulnerable people, including social pension are protected and provided timely.
By FARAJA MGWABATI