Sunday December 10, 2023

Ehsaas labour expert group meets for 8th time

By Our Correspondent
July 26, 2019

Islamabad : The phase of presentations by the Labour Expert Group operating under the platform of Ehsaas concluded here with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar constituting a writing committee to furnish a report so that practical steps can be taken to initiate registration of informal workers.

The group, which has met eight times in the last three months since its constitution, was given the mandate to develop recommendations to bring informal workers in social safety nets. Under Ehsaas, planning for many social protection and poverty alleviation initiatives is underway and several of them are on their way to being implemented.

In its initial couple of meetings, experts concluded that in order to accrue welfare to informal workers, their registration is the first step as it will open the door for their inclusion in labour safety nets such as Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI), Workers Welfare Fund (WWF) and Employees Social Security Institution (ESSI).

During the meetings, all stakeholders have given detailed input. At the last consultative meeting this week, Secretary General of the Pakistan Workers Federation Zahoor Awan gave a comprehensive presentation on the current status and social safety needs of workers employed in informal sector. He divided the informal workers into several categories and shared compelling evidence about the marginalization that informal workers suffer. He drew attention to the pressing need of the hour for the welfare and social safety of informal workers, particularly their health cover and pension.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sania also chaired a research meeting on Wednesday where findings of research conducted by Oxford Policy Management Group (OPM) were presented. DFID has contracted OPM to execute the third-party beneficiary feedback, operational review and monitoring assignment for BISP cash transfer programmes. This assignment is spread over two years from April 2018 to March 2020.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Sania said BISP is undergoing a multi-pronged process of reform guided by evidence. She said that the reforms embody the creation of a new payment system, a new national census level Socio-Economic Survey, a new communications strategy and new programme windows, especially configuring BISP’s operations around ‘Kifalat’ and ‘Tahafuz.’

Dr. Sania then continued that BISP’s Kifalat is a very important social safety programme; however, it is part of the much bigger Ehsaas initiative being implemented with 29 federal ministries, divisions, agencies and public sector departments for structurally reforming the social protection and poverty alleviation in Pakistan. BISP is responsible for execution of 7 out of the 115 policy actions of Ehsaas. Kifalat will ensure financial and digital inclusion of around 6 million women through the one woman one bank account and mobile wallet policy. These women will also be linked to government’s digital resources as a public good to create opportunities for them to graduate out of poverty. Similarly, ‘Tahafuz’ refers to launch of the shock-oriented precision safety net for the vulnerable to protect them against shocks. This will mainly involve one-time financial assistance to protect against catastrophic events.

Talking about the findings of the process review assignment, Dr. Sania reiterated that implementation research and beneficiary feedback is very important to make improvements in running programmes as it provides concrete direction for robust changes in systems and addressing of loopholes. Ali Raza Bhutta, Secretary BISP, Seema Ilahi Baloch, Team Leader DFID funded project, Oxford Policy Management, Patricia Seex, Head of Economic Growth Unit DFID Pakistan and Gul Najam Jami from The World Bank were also present on the occasion.