Access to social protection is a key issue for recovery and resilience in Senegal

The Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes du Sénégal (UNSAS) is committed to promoting decent work in the informal sector through the strengthening of social protection measures. Working in cooperation with the Belleville Institute/CFDT and French association ESSENTIEL, union organisations are planning to set up a health coverage scheme to support a group of 250 women working in fish and other seafood product processing activities in the informal economy.

This project comes in support of the Senegalese government’s policy to extend health coverage to the informal sector and is a demonstration of the UNSAS’s active role in the system set up by the Ministry of Labour to give substance to this policy objective, in cooperation with the coalition of Senegalese trade union centres. It involves 250 women grouped into two organisations located in Yenne and Mbao. and is being implemented in cooperation with French associationESSENTIEL Institut Belleville , which is the international cooperation institute of the Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT).

The work done by most of these women constitutes the main source of income for their families, which often consist of up to eight to ten members, as it is not unusual for the women’s households to include their children, their parents and their in-laws.

The women, who plan to organise within cooperatives affiliated to the UNSAS, work in difficult and dangerous conditions for very low earnings. Despite the precarious nature of their work, most of these women represent the main source of income for their households, made up of eight to ten people on average. They are exposed to many occupational diseases but have no access to existing health care schemes. The risks they face are mainly linked to the lack of adequate work tools and protective equipment. They work without protective gear, bare-handed, without gloves or masks, in the open air, exposed to many hazardous products and the vagaries of the weather.

When they fall ill, the women have to fend for themselves and meet their medical costs out of their own pockets. Although the state has introduced universal health coverage to address this kind of situation, the system is not effective, being encumbered by many difficulties due to the lack of resources.

To remedy the situation, the UNSAS, the Belleville Institute/CFDT and ESSENTIEL have decided, through this project, to set up a health risk coverage scheme adapted to the circumstances of these women.

Universal protection as a key component of sustainable development and recovery and resilience in the face of the pandemic

In the current context of the coronavirus pandemic, universal access to social protection and health care is one of the cornerstones of recovery and resilience to future crises. It is also crucial to the sustainable development of our societies.

The virus has highlighted how fragile social protection and health care systems are all over the world, and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) are proving to be more relevant than ever, as they encompass the promotion of universal access to health care and social protection. These objectives are firmly anchored in SDG 1 (end poverty), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), as well as SDG 8 (decent work and sustainable economic growth) and its direct link with the ILO Decent Work Agenda, which includes social protection as one of its four founding pillars along with social dialogue, employment creation and rights at work.

As the United Nations Secretary General pointed out on observing the damage the pandemic has done to the process of achieving SDGs around the world, “The SDGs could have put us on track towards a world with access to universal health coverage and quality health care and more inclusive and sustainable economies.”

The stakes are high. In Senegal, as in many other countries, universal social protection is still far from being a reality. Improving health care cover is key for both recovery and resilience and for placing the country firmly on the path to sustainable development. Currently, health coverage is marred by weak social security coverage and fragmented schemes, making access to health care very limited. Only about 20% of the population enjoys social and health protection in the country. The remaining 80%, the people with no health coverage and who scrape a living in the informal or rural sector, is the main target group for mutual health schemes.

A Global Social Protection Fund

In response to the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ITUC has launched a campaign for a Global Social Protection Fund, managed by the United Nations, which would be financed by a variety of existing but untapped resources, such as a redistribution of existing official development assistance (ODA) funds, of which only 0.69% is currently earmarked for investments related to social protection, or the establishment of broad-based low rate taxes (between 0.001 and 0.005%) on financial and currency transactions, for example, which could generate huge resources to finance a global social protection fund.

For the UNSAS, which supports this proposal, such a fund would help developing countries to initially establish universal health coverage for all people without distinction, with a view to ultimately achieving universal protection systems.

“In a country like Senegal, where the government is trying to set up a universal protection system but is hampered by a lack of resources, a global social protection fund would be enormously beneficial, helping to improve the effectiveness of the system while the country manages to put in place the measures and reforms needed to create its own sources of financing,” explains Anne Cécile Coly, member of the project’s steering committee, UNSAS.

“Sustainable development cannot be achieved without adequate protection systems adapted to the needs of the people. Sustainable development implies the reduction of inequalities and effective access to social protection systems to support decent work,” concludes Anne Cécile Coly.



For more information
Anne Cécile Coly, member of the project’s steering committee, UNSAS - annecoly[@]
Mame Saye Seck, project manager, UNSAS - mamesaye[@]