THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has called on government to pay US$100 to vulnerable employees as one of measures to enhance social protection during the COVID-19 lockdown.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
In proposed recommendations, ZCTU said based on Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat)’s 2019 Labour Force And Child Labour Survey report released last month, 98% of the country’s 14,2 million citizens were vulnerable to direct and indirect shocks of COVID-19.
“Scenario 1a uses the food poverty line to benchmark the level of support required to cushion all employed persons (formal and informal), the majority of whom were earning below the poverty datum line. Scenario 1b also targets total employment (formal and informal), and uses the current gazetted minimum wage of $2 500 (US$100) as the basis for compensation,” ZCTU said in its latest COVID-19 response report.
“Instead of using the levels of employment, scenario 2a looks at the projected households in distress based on the estimated one million level that government has used in its social protection framework. Scenario 2b compensates the households in distress (one million) on the basis of the current gazetted minimum wage of US$100.”
ZCTU added: “These scenarios provide the lower and upper limits to the social protection floor, and therefore, the resources required to cushion employees from the effects of COVID-19 and the measures adopted to mitigate its impact (e.g, national lockdown)”.
According to the 2019 Labour Force and Child Labour Survey, the estimated number of currently employed persons is 2,9 million out of a population of 14,2 million.
This is a huge drop from the 5 611 809 persons employed in Zimbabwe in 2017, showing a huge decrease in economic activity.
ZimStat defines employed persons as paid employment or self-employment.
The ZCTU proposal for government to pay a US$100 cushion would target 2 763 799, which makes up 95,4% of the employed population, which would cost US$276 379 900 or nearly $7 billion.
Or, ZCTU suggested, if government wanted to aid households with a target of one million, it would need to set aside $2,78 billion or US$111,08 million to make cash payouts equivalent to US$111.
Currently, government has set aside $600 million for one million vulnerable beneficiaries over the next three months, with each beneficiary expected to receive cash payouts of $200 or US$8.
“Given the rise in urban poverty and the fact that urban citizens pay for almost all services (rentals, water, electricity, etc) as compared to rural households, it may be prudent to remember this dimension as government seeks to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, including the lockdown,” ZCTU said.
“Additionally, the government should expedite addressing mealie-meal shortages in the suburbs in order to avoid long queues which can be a potential for the spread of COVID-19 infections. There have been unjustified price increases of basic commodities further deepening the suffering of citizens.”
ZCTU proposed that government needed to subsidise, or control prices of basic items such as mealie-meal, cooking oil, sugar, bread, soaps, LPG gas etc.