Fear of losing pension and other social security benefits in home countries is holding back the East African Community (EAC) from reaping the full benefits of a common market protocol that allowed free movement of labour.
The EAC secretariat says it is working on co-ordinating and extending social security coverage to migrant workers while exercising their right to free movement and living within the region.
Despite the common market protocol, national laws continue to affect persons who seek employment in neighbouring countries.
According to EAC Head of Labour and Immigration Stephen Niyonzima, social security legislation in partner States needs to be progressively amended to provide for cross-border portability of benefits to guarantee decent work.
“The majority of workers shun seeking employment for fear of losing their past contribution periods in different countries and, therefore, their pension benefits,” he said.
He noted that the portability of security will enable migrant workers to preserve, maintain and transfer benefits, independent of nationality and country of residence.
With the support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the EAC secretariat has developed EAC Draft Labour Migration Policy to facilitate the implementation of the movement of labour within the seven partner States of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and DRC.
ILO projects manager Grace Banya noted that safeguarding migrant workers’ social protection rights is necessary for the reduction and eventual elimination of child labour.
“Lack of access to pension is more likely to push households to resort to child labour to meet basic needs,” she said, asking States to apply relevant ILO conventions.