Informal Economy

Fijian informal sector business owners and workers access social security

The Informal Economies Recovery Project partnered with fellow UN projects - Markets for Change and REACH, to coordinate an outreach to the Rakiraki municipal market and Conua in the province of Nadroga in Fiji.

News | 16 December 2021
Coordinating outreach in the province of Nadroga, Fiji.
A large majority of workers and micro business owners in the informal sector do not have access to social security or pensions. This now includes formal sector workers who have been made redundant due to COVID-19, and who have transitioned to the informal sector.

The Fiji National Provident Fund [FNPF] annual report for 2021 stated that out of its total 446,658 members, only 22,310 are voluntary (including from informal sector) members. The report further highlights that only 30% of the total voluntary members, are actively contributing to the fund.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the FNPF are collaborating to raise awareness, provide advisory services and register informal sector workers and micro business owners.

“We are targeting informal sector workers in the western division, as most of the impact of COVID-19 has been in tourism and agricultural dependent locales. This is also aligned with the Fijian Government’s recovery priority of ensuring overall social protection coverage for all Fijians,” said Matin Karimli, ILO Director for Pacific Island Countries.

A major challenge mentioned by many informal sector workers had been the difficulties with making payments. There appeared to be a lack of uptake with the payment gateway in Vodafone’s M-PAISA app - which had been setup to encourage easier electronic payments.

Outreach training, Rakiraki, Fiji.
The Informal Economies Recovery Project partnered with fellow UN projects - Markets for Change and REACH, to coordinate an outreach to the Rakiraki municipal market and Conua (in the province of Nadroga.)

Sessions were also held with members of the Fiji Islands Dance Association (FIDA), Viti Association of Visual Arts (VAVA), Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC) and Women Entrepreneurs and Business Council (WEBC).

A total of 180 informal sector workers and entrepreneurs were engaged, as part of the three-day outreach.

“I previously was in formal employment where deductions were compulsory and done at source. Since starting my stall at the Rakiraki market, I have not been contributing to my FNPF”, said Mr Naicker. He further added that the visit by FNPF will allow him to be a voluntary member and re-start making contributions as this is good for his future.

“I am a voluntary member of FNPF and making regular payments is not easy. Through today’s session with FNPF I now understand that I can make payments through my bank.” said Ms Teresia Naibu, a market vendor at the Rakiraki Market.

A recent technical meeting on extending social security to the informal sector organised by the ILO, validated the need to create more targeted community outreach and make accessing information and financial contributions, easier for the informal sector.

Apart from sharing global and regional best practices, the technical meeting heard from the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) on their experience in swiftly boarding more than 2,000 new informal sector workers in a few weeks, by launching digital payment gateways; through two mobile phone and one digital wallet platform.

The FNPF, ILO and relevant partners have developed a series of targeted outreach, currently being rolled out. FNPF’s 2020 annual report highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic had further accelerated the need to extend coverage to the informal sector. Despite the challenges of the prolonged pandemic, a total of $4.8m was contributed by the active voluntary members to the fund. The latest annual report prioritises increasing voluntary contributions and rebranding of the voluntary products.