Dar es Salaam. Seventy per cent of workers in developing countries live in extreme working poverty, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Working poverty refers to a situation where families with at least one person in paid work have a household income that keeps them below an officially recognised poverty line.
This is largely due to the lack of decent work for the vast majority of workers, who fail to make ends meet as a result of meagre earnings, the ILO says in its What Works: Promoting Pathways to Decent Work 2019 report.
Major barriers to decent work are structural (lack of education and skills, work experience and information constraints) and labour demand shocks (economic crises, new technologies, climate-related shocks including droughts and cyclones as well as seasonal activities).
According to the ILO, decent work involves opportunities that are productive and deliver a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families.
The report says seven out of every ten workers in developing economies and two out of every ten in emerging economies live in either extreme or moderate working poverty.
Commenting on the report, Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (Tucta) president Tumaini Nyamhokya said low wages among workers was a long-standing problem.
Monthly minimum wages for in the public and private sectors in Tanzania have ranged from Sh100,000 to Sh300,000 since 2013, he added.
“Such wages make it impossible for the vast majority of workers to afford needs such as food, transport, clothing and shelter and pay school fees. If they do, then they remain with very little or nothing to save for the future.”
Mr Nyamhokya said it was time the government and private sector paid their employees “realistic” salaries.
Tucta has in recent years been pushing for a minimum wage of at least Sh750,000 top ensure decent living among lower-cadre workers.
According to the ILO, 730 million people in emerging and developing countries are working, but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
“These figures indicate that it is not only inactivity or unemployment that prevents households from leaving poverty behind; rather, they are also held back by a lack of access to adequate employment opportunities,” the report says.
The problem becomes even more striking if all people whose livelihoods depend on these “working poor”, such as family members, are taken into account.
However, the report says gainful employment remains the most reliable way of escaping poverty, although access both to jobs and decent working conditions remains a challenge.
The ILO believes that understanding the barriers that limit access to decent work is of the utmost importance when it comes to designing appropriate labour market policy measures.
“Emerging and developing countries should apply income support and active labour market policies (ALMPs) as part of an integrated approach to tackle temporary and structural barriers of accessing decent work.”
The report adds that combining active labour market policies with income support makes measures more effective in tackling poverty and helping people find decent work.