Strengthening Namibia's social protection
Namibia has a relatively comprehensive social protection system, compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, but there are several important gaps that need to be filled, according to a recent social protection expenditure and performance review.
OPM was part of an ILO team which assessed the performance and needs of Namibia’s social protection system in the context of the country’s socio-economic circumstances and future trajectory. One striking feature of this study was the significant positive impact that social protection has had on the country’s poverty and inequality: for example, it is estimated that social assistance reduced headcount poverty on the higher poverty line by more than 30% in 2009/10 to 2010, and severe poverty by an even bigger proportion.
Nevertheless, the assessment identified three key gaps that need to be filled if the country’s social protection system is to make even greater headway:
- First, there is no general support for poor households and children. As a result the system of child grants is inequitable as well as badly targeted and does not do enough to ensure the future of Namibia’s vulnerable children and the country’s growth prospects.
- Second, there are no mechanisms for supporting the unemployed. This is the case for both formal workers (there is no contributory unemployment scheme) and informal workers (who typically are not included in contributory systems). Youth unemployment is particularly high and is negative for long-term growth prospects.
- In addition, the contributory retirement system is essentially voluntary, with no mandatory state system in place, leading to low replacement rates, under-provision and high costs.
Consequently, the assessment recommended that Namibia should implement a system of child (or family) benefits and a number of options are set out to structure such benefits e.g. the phased abolishment of the current maintenance grants and special maintenance grants for children and the progressive/gradual introduction of a new universal grant (Child Grant) to children aged 0–17 years. In addition, proposals are made for an Employment Safety Net Programme (ESNP), which is a community-based public works scheme targeting youths (and others in long term unemployment) in marginalised areas.
In line with previous recommendations, efforts should also be intensified to establish mandatory retirement and medical scheme provision with a state option being provided for each of these through the Social Security Commission.
The recommendations also included suggestions for strengthening the administrationve and governance of the system. For instance, the assessment suggests the formulation of a national social protection strategy and a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework and the coordination of social protection by a single oversight and advisory body.