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Govt steps up inspection of informal sector

by Lesotho Times
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Bereng Mpaki

THE deployment of efficient and effective labour inspection services is key to helping the informal sector transition to the formal realm.

This is one of the takeaways from a three-day workshop being held by the Labour and Employment ministry in Maseru that ends today.

Held in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the workshop seeks to validate a report on the analysis of the rural and informal economy in Lesotho and to come up with appropriate strategies to implement ILO Recommendation 204.

The recommendation provides guidance to ILO members to facilitate transition of workers and economic units from the informal to the formal economy, while respecting workers’ fundamental rights and ensuring opportunities for income security, livelihoods and entrepreneurship.

It also seeks to promote creation, preservation and sustainability of enterprises and decent jobs in the formal economy, coherence of macroeconomic, employment, social protection and other social policies. The recommendation also seeks to prevent the informalisation of formal economy jobs.

Officially opening the workshop on Tuesday, the Labour and Employment ministry Acting Principal Secretary Pitso Makosholo, said the informal sector was neglected although it was an integral part of the economic systems of many ILO member states.

As a result, he said, many nations lost out on the revenue collection opportunities of the sector which would in turn grow their economies.

“Important as this sector is, it remains neglected due to its informal nature,” he said.

“A lot of gains are lost by key stakeholders in this sector. For example, the government losses a lot of revenue because of the manner in which this sector operates.”

Mr Makosholo also noted that the lack of labour standards adversely affected workers’ well-being in the sector.

“Examples of labour standards deficits include absence of protective clothing for workers irrespective of the hazardous nature of their working conditions.

“For instance, you find that many people in the informal sector don’t wear protective clothing while welding.”

The lack of labour standards also translated to non-payment of wages, child labour, absence of social security, non-observance of working time, leave days, sick and maternity leave as well as lack of workplace strategies to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

“We can have the best labour inspection standards in place, but as long as we do not have efficient and effective inspection services in the country, not much can be achieved,” he said, adding that the ministry had committed to increase the number of labour inspectors in the country by 50 next month to cover more ground.

Khathang Tema Baitšukuli, who is the treasurer for Mateboho Lerotholi — a national network of informal entrepreneurs with over 500 members — told the Lesotho Times on the sidelines of the workshop that one of their major challenges was an English language barrier since most of their members could not read or write in the language.

She said the language barrier impeded most informal traders from effectively communicating with labour authorities or adhering to required standards.

“Some of us informal traders cannot read and write in English which is important as a means of communication,” explained Ms Lerotholi.

“But since we cannot speak English, I think it is important for labour authorities to speak to us in Sesotho so we can understand the labour laws and adhere to them.”

She added: “When you see most of us not adhering to certain labour standards, don’t think that it is deliberate. It is most likely due to ignorance as a result of the language barrier. Too little education can be dangerous.”

One of the ILO facilitators, Sipho Ndlovu, remarked that formalising of the informal sector should be included in Lesotho’s developmental goals and objectives, such as in the next National Strategic Development Plan.

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