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Labour market and ageing population : decent work, decent pay and decent pension

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads as follows: Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

In this spirit the UN gurus developed Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals which reads under the label decent work and economic growth, promote inclusive and suitable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.

According to the ILO, decent work involves opportunities for work that are productive and deliver a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom, for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

In the Voluntary National Review Report of Mauritius 2019 we read "the labour market is constrained by the ageing population and skills mismatch. To address the expected shrinking of the labour force in view of the ageing population, the retirement age has been extended from 60 to 65 years. Different schemes and training programmes are in place to increase the participation of women in the labour force."

Through my press reading of this week I have come across two human stories: 

One gentleman (a young older person) is working as a security guard everyday of the week from 4.00 p.m to 7.00 a.m next day. He’ll go back home to sleep, rest, do some household chores and resume work. There is allegedly deduction o f Rs1,000 from his pay packet of Rs8,500 which he earns working from 6.00a.m to 6.00 p.m. He has no pay slip. 

The second case in point is that of a gentleman who is happy earning what he earns working everyday of the week.

Yet this category of work is governed by a Remuneration Order (1986) where we read a normal day’s work for a worker shall consist of 12 hours including time allowed for meal and tea breaks, and no worker shall be required to work for more than 6 days consecutively.

So the Press Attache of the Ministry of Labour is asking every one of the 5515 (2018) employees  in the sector to be patient.

In its recommendations the National Remunaration Board (April 2019 ) finds that (a) the normal working week for workers who perform shift work should be reduced to 48 hours, inclusive of the time allowed for meal and tea breaks, and a shift worker may agree with his employer to work for a maximum of 96 hours in a fortnight without extra remuneration provided that (i) the shift does not exceed 12 hours and (ii) extra work does not exceed, on average, 24 hours a fortnight.

We have shown interest in this issue of the conditions of work of security guards as there seems to be more than the eye can see: many (probably most) are over 60, have worked before and still need to work to feed the family, their children and grand-children, to pay for rent and utilities, for medicine (although the health services are free) and a host of commitments. Doesn’t they have to offer a gift to a beloved person or to travel to a wedding ceremony or to celebrate a festival? They need time and enough money to have a social life as we say in our jargon. 

“Able to participate in the life of their communities through employment, volunteer work or other activities.’’ (ILO)

In a survey DIS-MOI conducted two months ago, the respondents qualified decent work as, inter alia, having a ‘good’ salary, good work relations, good work environment and promotion prospects. How far are our security guards near to enjoy what ILO professes as underscored above?

We are told older employees are more reliable than younger ones and employing them is legal (not to say normal) age of retirement raised from 60 to 65. The onus is on the employer to enable older workers to stay longer in employment should they wish and to make it attractive for these workers to do so.

In the final analysis, we in DIS-MOI greatly welcome the intention of the Government to increase further the old-age pension. This is one of our demands that we develop in all of our conferences with older people, younger adults, school and out of school children: an adequate old age pension.

Vijay Naraidoo
President of the Commission for the Rights of Older People of DIS-MOI

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