Launch of the Mazdoor Ka Ehsaas report- A social protection programme for workers in the informal economy

The Ehsaas Delivery Unit at the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division and the ILO have jointly organised a webinar on May 1st, 2021 for the launch of MKE Report. The purpose of the webinar is to share steps taken for the actualisation of the MKE initiative and discuss its key recommendations.

Press release | Islamabad, Pakistan | 01 May 2021
ISLAMABAD (ILO News): Labour Day (May 1st, 2021) saw the launch of the Mazdoor Ka Ehsaas (MKE) report. MKE is among the 268 priority areas of Pakistan’s largest poverty alleviation programme (EHSAAS) launched by the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2019.

Mazdoor Ka Ehsaas translated as “compassion for workers” was formulated by a Tripartite Labour Welfare and Social Protection Expert Group (LWSPEG) supported technically by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and co-chaired by Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD) and Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and HRD (MoOPHRD). The LWSPEG was established in May 2019.

For the launch of the MKE report, the Ehsaas Delivery Unit at the PASSD jointly with the ILO organised a webinar on May 1st, 2021 during which steps taken for the actualisation of the MKE initiative were shared as well as its key recommendations.

The launch featured opening addresses from Senator Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to PM (SAPM) on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety (PA&SS) and Mr Zulfiqar Bukhari, Special Assistant to PM on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (SAPM-OPHRD).

Dr Sania Nishtar, SAPM (PA&SS) applauded the efforts of the contributors and the rich insights of experts that made the MKE report a possibility.

Mr Zulfiqar Bukhari, SAPM (OPHRD) shared the initiatives taken to expand social security within the formal sector and others innovative approaches through which further extension is being carried out to cover those working in the informal economy.

Ms Ingrid Christensen, Country Director, ILO said that the EHSAAS programme launched in 2019 was a promise and a commitment of the Government towards social protection for all. The Mazdoor Ka Ehsaas is an important initiative that will require collaboration of tripartite stakeholders including Government at all tiers and Workers and Employers Representative organisations. ‘

Ms Mariko Ouchi, Senior Social Security Specialist, ILO DWT, New Delhi, stressed on the need for coverage to be extended to workers in the informal and formal economy. She shared examples from other countries such as Tunisia, Ecuador and Bolivia where agricultural workers, self-employed workers and others have been brought into the ambit of social security through own contribution and cross subsidization of general insurance schemes.

Dr Aliya Khan, Labour economist and also the Chairperson of the MKE Core Group, referred to the recommendations of the MKE report on creating fiscal space. She said this could be done through a number of tools/packages including contributory schemes, creation of social insurance fund and contribution from expatriates and Pakistani diaspora. She also mentioned that the MKE report recommended the design of a communication and advocacy strategy to mobilise resources and expertise.

Ms Melis U. Guven, Senior. Social Protection Economist, shared that during the pandemic, $600 million financing for the Crisis-Resilient Social Protection Program (CRISP), was approved by the World Bank. She said that it was aimed to support Pakistan to expand EHSAAS, and to protect vulnerable households in increasing their resilience to economic shocks. She also stressed that two shifts are necessary; universal coverage and responsive social protection systems.

Ms Alia Shahid, Joint Secretary Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and HRD commented on the importance of interprovincial coordination among social security institutions. She said legislative, administrative reforms and institutional strengthening will guarantee the success of the vision towards universal social security.

Mr. Zahoor Awan, Chairman - Steering Committee, Pakistan Workers Federation said that a large number of workers are excluded from social security with in the formal sector owing to the nature of their contracts. Unless third party contractual workers are not brought into the remit of social security the coverage will remain low.

Mr. Fasih Karim Siddiqi, Senior Advisor, Employers Federation of Pakistan suggested that a possible way to gradually expand to universal coverage is to expand provision of benefits from most critical to a larger range; it can start with health benefits, injury benefits and pension . These Small measures can ensure welfare of workers and economic competitiveness of private sector

Concluding the event, Dr Lubna Shahnaz, representative LWSPEG, thanked the participants, and acknowledged the commitments of the PASS Division and the MoOPHRD in taking the MKE programme forward.

The webinar was financially and technically assisted under the Project, ‘Achieving SDGs and Ending Poverty through Universal Social Protection’, supported under the UN Peace and Development Trust Fund by the Government of China and jointly implemented by UNDESA and the ILO.