As­sess­ment of so­cial se­cu­rity in Pak­istan

The Financial Daily - - NATIONAL - Asif Ali Abro

The Mer­riam Web­ster dic­tio­nary de­fines ' so­cial se­cu­rity' as "The prin­ci­ple or prac­tice or a pro­gram of pub­lic pro­vi­sion (as through so­cial in­sur­ance or as­sis­tance) for the eco­nomic se­cu­rity and so­cial wel­fare of the in­di­vid­ual and his or her fam­ily". Ar­ti­cle 38(c) of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Pak­istan 1973, says, "The State shall pro­vide for all per­sons em­ployed in the ser­vice of Pak­istan or oth­er­wise, so­cial se­cu­rity by com­pul­sory so­cial in­sur­ance or other means". Whereas in the de­vel­oped world, ' so­cial se­cu­rity' is a term for gov­ern­ment sup­port to un­em­ployed or dis­abled per­sons, or to those who face dif­fi­culty in their sur­vival on their own, our con­sti­tu­tion promises so­cial se­cu­rity for 'all' in­clud­ing per­sons em­ployed in the ser­vice of Pak­istan and ev­ery­one else (cov­ered in the term 'oth­er­wise'). Not only con­sti­tu­tional cov­er­age of 'all' in the so­cial se­cu­rity is promis­ing but the nu­mer­ous in­sti­tu­tions, pack­ages and ini­tia­tives cre­ated / started by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments for pro­vid­ing so­cial se­cu­rity are also very promis­ing - at least on pa­pers. Although the re­al­ity is not as promis­ing as it may ap­pear af­ter count­ing the nu­mer­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions cre­ated by gov­ern­ment for pro­vid­ing sup­port to peo­ple of Pak­istan.

To the ex­tent of health ser­vices, the em­ploy­ees of cor­po­ra­tions and multi­na­tion­als are be­lieved to en­joy more in com­par­i­son to their coun­ter­part gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees, or em­ploy­ees of the gov­ern­ment con­trolled en­ti­ties. How­ever, in terms of old age, de­ceased sur­vivors' pen­sions or dis­abil­ity sus­te­nance, the gov­ern­ment sec­tor em­ploy­ees seem to have an up­per hand. The pen­sion rules of gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions are at least wellde­fined, though the pen­sion amounts range from barely suf­fi­cient to mea­ger for low scale em­ploy­ees. Es­pe­cially if it is con­sid­ered that af­ter re­tire­ment no other gov­ern­ment sup­port is avail­able for the re­tired em­ploy­ees; most of whom are still sup­port­ing their chil­dren in their univer­sity-level ed­u­ca­tion, ar­rang­ing wed­ding of their daugh­ters, and pulling them­selves in hospi­tals ow­ing to old age. Also, one's heart would ache if one sees old re­tired gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees (or their sur­vivors) get­ting their self re­spect mo­lested by the con­cerned staff. How­ever one will still have the con­so­la­tion that they (re­tirees or their sur­vivors) will get some­thing in their hands in the end, rather than noth­ing.

For pen­sion of pri­vate (for­mal) sec­tor em­ploy­ees the gov­ern­ment cre­ated Em­ploy­ees' Old-age Ben­e­fit In­sti­tu­tion (EOBI) in 1976. Func­tions of EOBI in­clude iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and reg­is­tra­tion of pri­vate sec­tor es­tab­lish­ments and in­dus­tries; iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and in­sur­ance of the em­ploy­ees in regis­tered es­tab­lish­ments; col­lec­tion of funds through con­tri­bu­tions; fund man­age­ment, and pro­vi­sion of ben­e­fits which in­clude old-age pen­sion af­ter re­tire­ment, pen­sion to de­ceased in­sured em­ployee, dis­abil­ity pen­sion, and old-age grant (if in­sured per­son re­tires but does not qual­ify for pen­sion). As­sum­ing Rs. 15000 per month as the min­i­mum wage, EOBI is es­ti­mated to col­lect con­tri­bu­tion of Rs. 750 per month at the rate of 5% of min­i­mum wages from em­ploy­ers of all the rel­e­vant in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions. As per es­ti­mate, it may also col­lect Rs. 150 per month con­tri­bu­tion at the rate of 1% of min­i­mum wages from the regis­tered em­ploy­ees of those or­ga­ni­za­tions. None­the­less, it only pro­vides pen­sion to those regis­tered em­ploy­ees who ful­fill the cri­te­ria of get­ting in­sured. As per re­ports, for the year 2018-19, con­tri­bu­tions are bud­geted as ap­prox. Rs. 22.6 bil­lion ver­sus the Rs. 29.7 bil­lion (ap­prox.) bud­geted as dis­per­sal for ben­e­fits to in­sured pen­sion­ers and their sur­vivors. The dif­fer­en­tial of around Rs. 7.1 bil­lion (ap­prox.) is ex­pected to be pro­vided by the in­come from prof­its of in­vest­ments in real es­tate and other ven­tures. None­the­less, the sto­ries of cor­rup­tion, sur­faced in me­dia in 2013 sur­round­ing dif­fer­ent in­vest­ments of EOBI, were sure to cre­ate fear in the hearts of or­di­nary pen­sion­ers de­pend­ing on EOBI. Their plight how­ever is feared to be ag­gra­vated if the cur­rent con­fu­sion com­pounds sur­round­ing the is­sue of EOBI's de­vo­lu­tion from fed­eral gov­ern­ment to pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments in wake of 18th con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment.

Since EOBI's func­tion is more fo­cused on pen­sion, the health­care for pri­vate sec­tor em­ploy­ees and depen­dents is cov­ered by pro­vin­cial em­ploy­ees' so­cial se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions (i.e. Pun­jab So­cial Se­cu­rity In­sti­tute - PESSI, Sindh Em­ploy­ees So­cial Se­cu­rity In­sti­tute - SESSI, and oth­ers). These pro­vin­cial in­sti­tutes also col­lect con­tri­bu­tions from the in­sured in­dus­tries, com­mer­cial and other es­tab­lish­ments at the rate of 6% of in­sured em­ploy­ees draw­ing salaries up to Rs. 18000. Though these in­sti­tutes have other func­tions as well such as pro­vid­ing death grant, mar­riage grants, cash ben­e­fits etc., their ma­jor fo­cus is on pro­vid­ing med­i­cal cov­er­age to em­ploy­ees of in­sured em­ploy­ers. The med­i­cal ser­vices pro­vided by these in­sti­tu­tions are con­sid­ered rea­son­ably sat­is­fac­tory. How­ever there are grapevines of lesser col­lec­tion of con­tri­bu­tions than the legally per­mit­ted ones, in con­nivance with those who mat­ter. Be­sides there are calls of thor­ough scan of ex­or­bi­tantly high ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­penses of these in­sti­tu­tions in com­par­i­son to the ben­e­fits ex­tended to the em­ploy­ees. Be­sides EOBI and pro­vin­cial em­ploy­ees' so­cial se­cu­rity in­sti­tu­tions, there are cer­tain other ar­range­ments for pro­vid­ing so­cial se­cu­rity to em­ploy­ees of pri­vate sec­tor es­tab­lish­ments. These in­clude Work­ers Wel­fare Fund (WWF) at fed­eral gov­ern­ment level and Work­ers Wel­fare Boards at pro­vin­cial level for pro­vid­ing low cost hous­ing and other ameni­ties to the in­dus­trial la­bor; manda­tory group life in­sur­ance scheme of 1968; and oth­ers.

Sum­ming up, the em­ployed per­sons ei­ther in pub­lic sec­tor or in for­mal pri­vate sec­tor are rel­a­tively more so­cially se­cure in Pak­istan. Nev­er­the­less, their share in the to­tal work force is quite low. As per the In­ter­na­tional La­bor Or­ga­ni­za­tion, the in­for­mal sec­tor con­sti­tutes more than 70% of the to­tal la­bor force in Pak­istan. Their plight, es­pe­cially those who work and live in ru­ral ar­eas of Pak­istan, is poorer than the poor. The gov­ern­ment has cre­ated many in­sti­tu­tions to help the poor and needy in the coun­try. These in­sti­tu­tions in­clude Pak­istan Baitul Mal, Be­nazir In­come Sup­port pro­gram (BISP), Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion Fund, Za­kat (ei­ther through Za­kat & Usher Com­mit­tees un­der pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments, or ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and hospi­tals) to pro­vide so­cial se­cu­rity to poor and needy. How­ever in some in­stances, the help ex­tended by these in­sti­tu­tions is ei­ther iron­i­cally pal­try or carry blame of po­lit­i­cal-bribery. For in­stance BISP dis­perse cash grants of less than Rs. 1650 per month to a fam­ily. BISP also grants Rs. 250 per child (4 to 12 years) per month for ed­u­ca­tion if cer­tain con­di­tions are ful­filled.

The low-cost ed­u­ca­tion and health care in gov­ern­ment schools and gov­ern­ment hospi­tals are also steps to­wards pro­vid­ing so­cial se­cu­rity to low in­come groups. In ad­di­tion the mi­cro-fi­nance ini­tia­tive that works to­wards pro­vid­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for mi­cro-fi­nance in the coun­try, have the po­ten­tial to help es­tab­lish smaller busi­nesses and in the way re­duce poverty, and ul­ti­mately pro­vide so­cial se­cu­rity to the peo­ple at grass roots level. None­the­less, all such ini­tia­tives for pro­vid­ing so­cial se­cu­rity would sound hol­low if cor­rup­tion, nepo­tism, fa­voritism and above all lack of ca­pa­bil­ity and sin­cer­ity keep them bleed­ing. There is press­ing need of chang­ing the so­ci­ety from within and putting the ba­sic in­gre­di­ents of hon­esty, truth­ful­ness and sin­cer­ity in all ef­forts and en­deav­ors; oth­er­wise, the num­ber of peo­ple pour­ing at the doors of Edhi, Say­lani, lan­gars (free meals at Sufi shrines); beg­ging in the streets; com­mit­ting street crimes, or puff­ing drugs un­der ev­ery fly­over, at ev­ery foot­path and at ev­ery nook and cor­ner of the coun­try would keep on in­creas­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.