KARACHI: Organisations of workers’ representatives in the city have urged the government to provide universal social security to all Pakistani citizens and make necessary amendments to the country’s Constitution to make social security a fundamental right.

In a joint statement shared with the media, the labour leaders, including Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), Habibuddin Junaidi of the Peoples Labour Bureau, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Unions Federation, Liaquat Sahi of the State Bank Democratic Workers Union, Zehra Khan of Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), Farhat Perveen of NOW Communities and others, pointed out that Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan, pertaining to the promotion of social and economic well-being of citizens should be made part of Chapter 2 of the Fundamental Rights in the Constitution.

“Sub-section (c) of the Constitution’s Article 38 says the state will provide for all persons employed in the service of Pakistan or otherwise, social security by compulsory social insurance or other means.

“The Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Act, 1976 and provincial Employees Social Security Act 1965 are in place for half a century and made to ensure provision of social security to registered workers, but unfortunately only a small number [five per cent] of workers are able to take benefits under these provisions because of absence of any universal social security scheme.

“The Sindh government had initiated ground work to provide universal social security to all citizens, but it is still not materialised,” the statement read.

“During the coronavirus pandemic all industries and business places are closed due to lockdown in the entire country, which has created economic hardships and problems for workers and daily earning labourers. Although some schemes have been announced by both federal and provincial governments to provide food ration or cash grants to the people, majority of the workers [have] not benefited from these schemes due to various reasons.

“There is a dire need to launch a universal social security programme for all citizens to ensure that all people are protected from hardships of the emergencies like lockdowns or epidemics. Social security entitles registered people for unemployment allowance, sickness and injury allowance and old age and disability benefits,” the statement concluded.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2020