More than half of working Ugandans have no access to social protection as fall back when they retire or stop working. This is according to a report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics-UBOS from a survey conducted between June 2021 to December 2021 in the different districts across the country.
In its third annual Labour Survey for 2021, UBOS reports that the total working population of Uganda is 55 percent, making 23.5 million people of the estimated human population of 42.9 million people. Of those who qualify to work, 20.5 million are actually working. The official working age for Uganda that the survey studied was from 14 to 64 years.
However, of the 20.5 working Ugandans, 72.6 percent making over 14.8 million do not have access to any form of social protection, and only 18 percent, making over 3.69 million people have their employers pay for National Social Security Fund-NSSF.
Martin Wandera, the Director of Labour, Employment, and Occupational Safety and Health at the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development attributes the challenge, partly, to the lack of written employment contracts by the employees.
“And if they do not have employment contracts in case there is a dispute, how do they prove that they were employed in the first place, how do they demand their wages? If you have no contract I will refuse to pay you and you will have no claim” says Wandera stressing.
He says that although government attempts to inspect workplaces to ensure favorable work conditions, the function of labour inspection is not respected by employers who don’t want to be inspected and other forces that interpret the exercise as a mere waste of money.
“Without inspection, people will work and yet they don’t have employment contracts,” added Wandera
The lack of written contractual agreements risks the relation of the employee with their employer since it is in contractual agreements that the two parties agree to the terms and conditions of their engagement, prescribing rights and duties.
Indeed, this report also indicates that of the total working population of Uganda, only 32.7 percent making 6.7 million people have written contracts while 67.3 percent translating into 13.7 million people are working based on oral contracts. Additionally, agriculture, forestry, and fishing which is the largest single employing sector of the 20.5 million working Ugandans have the largest number of workers without written contracts and are hence prone to abuse by their employers.
According to the report, 96.3 percent of employees in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector don’t have written working agreements while only 3.7 percent have written contracts.
In a 2019 information paper on labor law in Uganda, by the Institute of Public Accountants of Uganda, it is clearly of value that the terms of a contract be reduced in writing or evidenced in writing.
“In this way, disputes can be averted more easily and evidence will be easier to obtain in the event of dispute” reads the paper in part.
Ibrahim Kasirye, the Director of Research at the Economic Policy Research Centre-EPRC says that the findings of the report calls for further research to explain issues associated with social protection and employee work contracts. He says that as Uganda seeks to create more jobs for employment, the quality of employment should be considered.
“We also know that even with those who are employed, many do not have Social Protection. So as we think about the number of the employed, we should also think about how we plan to provide the necessary social protection even prior to somebody reaching retirement age” emphasized Kasirye.
Aggrey Kibenge, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development says the ministry established a steering committee on the labor market information system and that the issue raised in the report shall be put into consideration to make sure the situation is remedied.
“I think through the thematic groups and discussions that are going to follow, all these matters are going to be picked up. but on the whole, I think we have useful information to enhance policy development, programming and formulation of programs and improved coordination within government in order that we can enhance the productivity of our labor force” said Kibenge.