EVERY MORNING, Jean de Dieu Uwizeyimana wakes up and moves around the City of Kigali in search of casual jobs in the construction sector.
Luckily enough, he always manages to get something to do and earns money to fend for his family. However, the father of three says working conditions are not favourable.
“We are not paid on time, we can spend two months without being paid, besides, we don’t have contracts and I know nothing about health insurance, my safety is not insured yet I am exposed to work hazards,” said the 32 year-old resident of Kimisagara sector in Kigali.
Uwizeyimana currently works with one of the construction companies in town and everywhere he has worked, none of them has given him medical insurance.
“We wish to be considered as employees and our rights should be respected just like other employees in the formal sector,” he adds.
According to Ministry of Public Service and Labour (MIFOTRA), 91 per cent of the working population in the country work in the informal sector and the majority of them face severe challenges.
A labour force survey conducted in February 2017 showed that the national unemployment rate stands at 16.7 per cent. Unemployment is particularly high among the youth.
However, there is a ray of hope as MIFOTRA, in partnership with other stakeholders such as the Private Sector Federation (PSF) and Workers Trade Unions, has launched a “decent work national programme” to address issues facing workers in the informal sector.
The five-year project aims at teaching workers their rights, employers their obligations and training youth and women.
According to the Minister for Public Service and Labour, Fanfan Rwanyindo, the programme will promote productive employment and decent jobs, improve the application and implementation of international labour standards as well as help pursue social protection programmes that target the most vulnerable groups.
According to the minister, under the Seven-Year National Strategy for Transformation (2017–2024), Government is undertaking efforts to create 215,000 off farm jobs annually and 1.5 million by 2024 and improving the social well-being of the people of Rwanda.
The National Strategy for Transformation is anchored on the premise that decent work is central to people’s well-being. It is also in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets, especially Pillar 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth.
Rwanyindo said that labour laws were being revised in order to domesticate and integrate some of the international labour standards.
“Let us now, all of us together take necessary steps forward to implementation,” she told stakeholders last week.
Eric Manzi, the Secretary General of the workers trade union, CESTRAR, welcomed the programme, saying it was long overdue and would bring about positive impact.
“It took a long time. We have had many discussions and identified the main gaps. I am optimistic it will promote decent employment among informal employees whose rights are not respected,” he said.
Wellington Chibebe, the director of regional International Labour Organisation, that covers Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi, said the situation of workers in the informal sector was pathetic, adding there is need to promote decent work not only in Rwanda but on the entire continent.
“Let’s not just talk, let us walk the talk, it is one thing to launch this programme and another to implement it. You can actually implement but what we want is the results. If you say you are creating jobs, given your age, are you decently employed? Are you getting the necessary employment conditions?” he said.