Decent work crucial for human dignity

The world yesterday marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and called for a universal access to decent work and social protection as a means to uphold human dignity for all people.

The theme for this year's event was: “Decent Work and Social Protection: Putting dignity in practice for all".

The United Nations officially set aside October 17, in 1992 to mark the event annually to reflect the global commitment to eradicating poverty and promoting social inclusion.

Social protection is a set of policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people's exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against hazards and interruption or loss of income.

Decent work is employment that respects the fundamental rights of the human person, as well as the rights of workers in terms of conditions of work safety and remuneration, among others.

In 2020, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) stated that only 46.9 per cent of the global population were effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit, leaving more than half of the world’s population wholly unprotected.

Figures from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) show that the share of the world’s workers living in extreme poverty was cut to half: from 14.3 per cent in 2010 to 7.1 per cent in 2019.

Further analysis by UNDP also found that 165 million people fell into the poverty bracket between 2020 and 2023 as debt servicing crowded out expenditures in critical areas such as social protection, health and education.

The Daily Graphic finds it interesting that the 2023 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) report warns that if efforts towards eradicating poverty are not redoubled, 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty and only one-third of countries will have halved their national poverty levels by 2030.

According to the report, despite the expansion of social protection during the COVID-19 crisis, over four billion people remain entirely unprotected.

The paper is therefore happy to note that in Ghana over the years, successive governments have implemented a number of poverty reduction and social protection programmes.

They include the Programme of Action to Mitigate the Social Cost of Adjustment in 1987; District Assembly Poverty Alleviation Strategy in 1996; the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS I & II) and the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty.

The others are the Ghana School Feeding Programme, National Health Insurance Scheme and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust.

Results from empirical studies carried out by some research institutions showed that over the years, the poverty reduction efforts yielded some positive results.

However, researchers have pointed out that there are still challenges with some of the poverty reduction programmes to help achieve the desired results.

The challenges include the lack of a benchmark to appropriately target the poor and the vulnerable; more urban-centred interventions rather than rural-centred ones, and the lack of a uniform threshold to measure the needs of poor households.

The rest of the challenges are the absence of an effective mechanism to ensure only the needy households and individuals receive income support and the fact that majority of citizens that are self-employed or work in the informal sector are not visible to the government.

Others are low monetary payments to beneficiaries of some of the poverty alleviation programmes due to lack of funds and limitation of the basis for the geographical targeting of the poor.

Various programmes are also operated by different ministries and departments without any effective link between them for coherence, thereby weakening the effective targeting of beneficiaries.

Researchers have also identified the need to place more emphasis on strategies to generate employment, particularly among the youth, with less emphasis on cash transfers to the poor.

Going forward, the paper is advocating policies and initiatives that address the root causes of poverty, such as access to education, health care and employment opportunities.

This is because poverty has many dimensions, but its causes include unemployment, social exclusion and high vulnerability of certain populations to disasters, diseases and other phenomena which prevent them from being productive.

There must also be strong social protection systems essential for mitigating the effects and preventing many people from falling into poverty.

The private sector has a major role to play in determining whether the growth it creates is inclusive and contributes to poverty reduction. 

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