International obligations remain unfulfilled

Richard Shilamba
SAHRiNGON -Tanzania Chapter

Tanzania has signed numerous international treaties guaranteeing the right to social security for all, and the International Labour Organization maintains that the country can afford to provide modest levels of countrywide social security protection for all its citizens. For the moment, however, social security schemes are largely limited to those working in the formal sector of the economy, who represent only a fraction of the population.Tanganyikaattained independence from British rule on 9 December 1961 and became a memberof the United Nations that same month. For its part, Zanzibar became independenton 10 December 1963, and joined the United Nations shortly after. On 26 April1964, after the Zanzibar revolution of January 1964, the governments ofTanganyika and Zanzibar merged the two countries into one, the United Republicof Tanzania, which became a single member of the United Nations on 1 November1964.

The country has ratified a number of UN treaties guaranteeing the right tosocial security to all, including theInternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966,which stipulates in Article 9: “TheStates Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to socialsecurity, including social insurance.”

It was further established in the Constitution of the United Republic ofTanzania of 1977 that “the state authority and all its agencies are obliged todirect their policies and programmes towards ensuring … that human dignity ispreserved and upheld in accordance with the Universal Declaration of HumanRights.” The Declaration clearly guarantees in Article 22: “Everyone, as amember of society, has the right to social security and is entitled torealization, through national effort and international co-operation and inaccordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic,social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the freedevelopment of his personality.” In addition, Article 11(1) of theConstitution reads: “The state authority shall make appropriate provisions forthe realization of the person’s right to work, to self education and socialwelfare at times of old age, sickness or disability and in other cases ofincapacity.”

The need to submit reports to treaty monitoring bodies

All states parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social andCultural Rights are obliged under Article 16 to submit regular reports to theCommittee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights “on the measures which theyhave adopted and the progress made in achieving the observance of the rightsrecognized therein.”

Although Tanzania ratified the Covenant on 11 September 1976, and bydoing so, was obliged to submit its initial report within two years of that dateand thereafter after every five years, the government submitted its initialreport on 10 September 1979, and since that first report – a full 28 years agonow – the government has not submitted a single periodic report to thecommittee.[1]

Furthermore, both Articles 9 and 11 of the country’s Constitution, whichguarantee the right to social security as per the Universal Declaration of HumanRights and “appropriate provisions for the realization of theperson’s…social welfare at times of old age, sickness or disability and inother cases of incapacity,” respectively, fall outside of the Bill of Rightsincorporated in Chapter III of the constitution, which makes the right to socialsecurity unenforceable in the country.

We strongly recommend that the government comply with its obligation to submitperiodic reports to treaty monitoring bodies, in order to maximize andfacilitate the fulfilment and implementation of international treatiesguaranteeing the right to social security. In addition, the government needs toincorporate the right to social security in the constitutional Bill of Rights,so that people are able to seek redress of their violated social security rightsthrough court and non-court processes.

The right of unemployed people to enjoy social security

The current social security laws and schemes cover only people employed in thepublic and private formal sectors, who account for only a fraction of thecountry’s population of 34.5 million people. According to the most recentgovernment labour force survey, of the 15.3 million people employed, 84% wereemployed in traditional agriculture, 6% in the informal sector, 4% in theprivate formal sector, 3.5% in domestic work, 2% in government, and 0.5% in theparastatal sector.[2]

The Parastatal Pension Fund (PPF),[3]created by Act No. 14 of 1978, provides social security services to employees ofparastatal organizations, government agencies, privatized parastatalorganizations and private companies not covered by any other social securityfund. Contributions are made to the PPF on a monthly basis, and are calculatedas 20% of the employee’s salary, which can be divided in two ways: 5%contributed by the employee and 15% by the employer, or 10% contributed by each.Employers are required to submit both their own contribution and theiremployees’ share (deducted from their salaries). The PPF also operates aseparate scheme known as the Deposit Administration Scheme, geared to employeeswho are working on a contractual or part-time basis.

For its part, the National SocialSecurity Fund (NSSF), created under Act No. 28 of 1997, is a compulsoryscheme which covers all employees in the private sector, including employees ofcompanies, non-governmental organizations, embassies based in Tanzania employingTanzanians, and associations and organized groups employing people in theinformal sector, as well as government and parastatal employees on operationalservices and temporary employees. Under this scheme, NSSF administers and paysto qualified insured individuals both long-termor pension benefits (retirement pension,invalidity pension, survivorspension) and short-termbenefits (funeral grants, maternity benefits, employment injury/occupational diseasebenefits and healthinsurance benefits).[4]

The National Health Insurance Scheme(NHIS) covers only central government employees along with their spousesand up to four children or legal dependants. It is mandatory for these employeesto contribute to the NHIS. The required contribution is 6% of the employee’ssalary, divided equally between the employee and the government.

Meanwhile, the Community Health Fund (CHF), set up under the CommunityHealth Fund Act of 2001, is basically a district-level prepayment scheme forprimary health care services, targeted at the rural population and the informalsector. A household joins the CHF by paying an annual membership fee to gainunlimited access to outpatient services at CHF participating facilities.Families that cannot afford to pay the annual membership fee are supposed toobtain a free CHF card. In practice, voices from the field show that CHFmembership contributions are very low and largely declining, leaving theunemployed in rural areas without any reliable social security coverage.[5]

In terms of human rights and social justice, the unemployed need to be includedin the social security mechanisms enjoyed by the small minority employed in theformal sector (
Van Ginneken, 1999). The Social Security Department of theInternational Labour Organization (ILO)[6]maintains that Tanzania can afford modest levels of countrywide social securityprotection for all its citizens, both unemployed and employed, so as to cover atleast basic health care, access to schooling and basic pensions (i.e., old age,invalidity and survivors’ pensions). The latter two in particular are majorinstruments in combating the social fall-out of HIV/AIDS. According to the ILO,such a modest government package would cost less than 6% of Tanzania’s GDP.

Numerous countries around the world have established unemployment compensationschemes to assist workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their ownwith monetary payments for a given period of time or until they find a new job.This compensation is designed to give an unemployed worker time to find a newjob equivalent to the one lost without major financial distress. In Tanzania,however, people who lose their employment are entitled only to terminationbenefits. The government has not yet ratified either the ILO UnemploymentConvention (C2) of 1919, which proposes measures for “preventing or providingagainst unemployment,” nor the Unemployment Provision Convention (C44) of1934, which establishes guidelines with regard to unemployment insurance andother forms of relief for the unemployed.

We strongly urge the government to ratify and implement all ILO conventionsguaranteeing the right to social security for the unemployed, and to introduce asocial security scheme geared to this purpose.

... and of rural women, particularly mothers

Tanzania has ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms ofDiscrimination against Women of 1979. Article 11 of the Convention provides that“States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminatediscrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on abasis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular… the rightto social security, particularly in cases of retirement, unemployment, sickness,invalidity and old age and other incapacity to work, as well as the right topaid leave.”

Accordingto the 2002 Population and Housing Census, Tanzania has a population of 34.5million people, of whom 77% live in rural areas while the remaining 23% are inurban areas. Women constitute 51.1% of the entire population (17.6 million).[7]

Women face extra responsibilities and risks, such as those involved inchildbearing, which require extra social security protection. Late TanzanianPresident Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere (1977) once concluded that “when asociety… takes care of its individuals, then no individual within that societyshould worry about what would happen to him tomorrow if he does not hoard wealthtoday.” Most rural women in Tanzania are not in a position to “hoardwealth” and live in conditions of extreme poverty, which contributes to theirrisk of maternal mortality. The high maternal mortality rate in the country islargely due to a lack of deliberate social security coverage for all womenwherever they are, and in particular, those living in rural areas.

Although there have been several governmentinitiatives, including the provision of free health care services,insecticide-treated mosquito nets and counselling to pregnant women, maternalmortality is both high and increasing: from 529 maternal deaths for every100,000 live births in 1996 to 578 out of every 100,000 in 2005.[8] As a partial solution, we would recommend aGDP-based social security scheme for rural women and particularly mothers.

More than two million AIDS orphans require basic services

Tanzania is a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989.Article 26 of the Convention establishes that “States Parties shall recognizefor every child the right to benefit from social security, including socialinsurance, and shall take the necessary measures to achieve the full realizationof this right in accordance with their national law.”

Tanzania has an HIV/AIDS prevalence of about 7% (6.3% for males and 7.7% forfemales) among adults aged 15 to 49. Urban residents have considerably higherinfection levels (10.9%) than rural residents (5.3%). The estimated number ofpeople living with HIV/AIDS is two million, and the government has registeredtwo million HIV/AIDS orphans. However, the number of AIDS orphans doubled fromone million in 2003 to two million in 2005 (
TACAIDS, 2005) which means thecurrent number is almost certainly considerably higher and increasing.[9]

In view of the large proportion of the population made up by children[10]and the growing number of orphans due to HIV/AIDS and other calamities, there isa clear need for a comprehensive social security scheme to provide children withbasic services, and in particular, education. In trying to solve this problem,Tanzania has established social security ‘safety nets’ incorporated into thecountry’s ongoing Economic and Social Action Programme (ESAP). One of thesesafety net programmes is the creation of the Mwalimu Nyerere Educational TrustFund, which is being used to sponsor orphans to attend school.

In reality, however, this fund has not been able to assist all orphans in needof education at various levels. Some local government authorities and schoolshave shifted the burden to unknown strangers, as orphaned schoolchildren areseen roaming offices and streets with local government letters authorizing themto seek financial support from good Samaritans.[11]

It is recommended here that the international community extend its support toassist Tanzania in establishing a social security scheme which ensures accessfor all children, including orphans, to basic and further education, includinguniversity studies.

Unguaranteed rights of persons with disabilities

Social security and income-maintenance schemes are of particular importance forpersons with disabilities. As stated in the Standard Rules
onthe Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (1993),“States should ensure the provision of adequate income support to persons withdisabilities who, owing to disability or disability-related factors, havetemporarily lost or received a reduction in their income or have been deniedemployment opportunities.”

According to Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons withDisabilities, adopted 6 December 2006, StatesParties recognize the right of persons with disabilities.”[12]The government has not yet ratified this important convention, making itdifficult for persons with disabilities to enjoy the right to social securitythat it guarantees.

Encouraging signs

The Governor of the Bank of Tanzania, Daudi T. Balali, acknowledged in March2007 that the greater part of the country’s population is still dependent onthe traditional social security system, now getting weaker every day as a resultof the corrosive effects engendered by urbanization and threatening diseaseslike HIV/AIDS. According to him, “Because of the difficult economicenvironment and diseases like HIV/AIDS which have torn apart the traditionalfabric and economic might, … accessibility to social welfare services bydisadvantaged groups is limited.” Governor Balali underlined that “thistrend calls for a rethink on the way people are organized in the provision ofsocial security by, among other things, exploring new ways of improving coverageas well as benefits in order to fulfil obligations as stipulated in Article 22of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.”[13]We are all happy with this observation and urge the government to work on it.


Nyerere,J.K. (1977). Essays on Socialism.Oxford University Press.

TACAIDS (Tanzania Commission for AIDS) (2005). Follow-up Report to the Declaration of HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) Commitment.January-December.

United Nations (1993). Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons withDisabilities. Annexed to General Assembly resolution 48/96 of 20 December.Introduction, para. 17; Rule 8, para. 1.

Van Ginneken, W. (1999). Social Securityfor the excluded majority: Case studies of developing countries. Geneva:ILO.


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[5] Participantsremarks, SAHRiNGON-Tanzania Public Expenditure tracking system feedback session,May 2007, Babati.
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[8] H.E, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, formerpresident of Tanzania speech to a rally on 23 March 2007 to commemorate womenand girls who died due to childbirth and pregnancy complications.
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[10] TheTanzania Population and Housing Census of 2002 indicates that children under 18constitute 50.6% of the population. <>.
[11] Letter fromBabati District Commissioner dated 11 January 2007 with reference numberDC/BBT/V.10/5/Vol.V/56 urging good Samaritans to assist a Gidas Secondarystudent.
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[13] Daudi T. Balali,the Governor of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) addressing a gathering ofInternational Social Security Associations (ISSA) in Dar es Salaam. Attended bystakeholders from within and outside the country, March 2007. Quoted by MichaelHaonga in local newspaper The Guardian“BoT Governor calls for enhanced public access to social security” of 26March 2007.