Informal worker pension scheme integrated into ‘Imihigo’

A bank teller counts money before giving it to a client. Ejo Heza, a pension scheme intended to ensure the welfare of informal workers is set to get a boost in the next fiscal year. Emmanuel Kwizera

Mobilising more savings into EjoHeza Long Term Savings Scheme has been integrated into districts’ performance contracts – Imihigo – for the financial year 2019/2020, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente has said.

The Premier was speaking during the 2019 National Umushyikirano Council held from December 19 to 20, 2019 at Kigali Convention Centre.

 

EjoHeza is a pension scheme intended to ensure the welfare especially of workers in the informal sector once they retire as a result of old age, debilitating diseases or permanent disabilities resulting from occupational hazards.

 

However, both salaried and non-salaried employees are entitled to contribute to and benefit from it.

 

Talking about the execution of the 2018 Umushyikirano resolution to fast-track the implementation of EjoHeza and sensitise Rwandans from all walks of life to subscribe, Ngirente revealed that so far, 280,272 people have subscribed to it, with Rwf979,250,338 in savings.

“We hope that this activity will continue to be performed well and be effective,” the premier said. 

Universal pension coverage is still far from being achieved in Rwanda as only an estimated 8 percent of 5.4 million active Rwandans in the working age bracket have access to long-term saving through pension schemes, according to information from the Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB).

Those are people employed in the formal sector such as public servants, and staff with fixed salary in the private sector.

The remaining 92 percent of all of the workforce, who include motorcycle drivers, masons, farmers, traders, people involved in handcrafts, among others, are excluded from pension schemes.

Gicumbi District Mayor, Felix Ndayambaje told Sunday Times that integrating the scheme into districts’ Imihigo implies attaching importance and focus to it.

“In local government administrative entities, it has been realised that subjects that get included in Imihigo are given more attention,” he said.

“Gicumbi District has a target to mobilise almost Rwf387 million and 6,917 members,” he revealed.

However, he said that although the district exceeded the target in terms of membership as 10,874 people subscribed to the scheme, the savings amounted to Rwf80 million as of end of November 2019.

Much as Gicumbi District has a target to register members to the scheme, it has to follow up to make sure that they make contributions to it.

He said that it was projected that the minimum annual contribution to the scheme is Rwf18,000 per member.

“This initiative is important as it fosters a good savings culture among Rwandans, especially for old age. For instance, we have people employed in the informal sector, such as farmers. They carry out tiring work, but, when they become too old to carry on working, they do not have anything to rely on for livelihoods,” he said.

“Fortunately, under the auspices of this initiative, those people will be able to get the much needed pension during retirement,” he said.

Dominique Bicamumpaka, President of Labour Congress and Workers’ Brotherhood in Rwanda (COTRAF) – a trade union – told Sunday Times that EjoHeza is an initiative that is worth endorsing as there are many workers in the informal sector.

“Some people in the informal sector work day and night, and they age quickly. So, it is important that they get a guaranteed support once they become too old to work,” he said.

“It is necessary that districts put efforts in that [scheme],” he said indicating that political institutions need to sensitise people about new things so that they understand them.

However, he said that there is a need for proper management of the savings being mobilised to make sure that they will effectively benefit the subscribers.

Speaking at EjoHeza launch in December 2018 during Umushyikirano, Uzziel Ndagijimana, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, said that it gives all Rwandans, especially those with little means, easy ways to make savings and get entitled to a monthly pension in their old days.

The savings, he added, can also be used as a guarantee to acquire bank loans, informing that the government will also be topping upfor needy people who have contributed to that initiative.

Ndagijimana said that the study done indicated that it is projected that the initiative will have reached 2 million people with estimated savings of about Rwf195 billion within five years.

entirenganya@newtimesrwanda.com

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