Social security and pension systems in Rwanda: Limits and alternatives

  • Belle Uwera Belle Uwera

Over the past years, a great deal of attention was given and has been paid to the reform of the social security systems in developed countries and in developing countries. The focus of the discussion is centered on how to find an appropriate social security system in a rapidly changing economic and social environment (Van Ginneken (cited in Jütting 2000:1).

According to Bloom et al (2011:2), population aging is a reality in both developed and developing countries, even if there are differences in terms of the contemporary significance of the phenomenon. While in the advanced countries there are more than 90% of the population covered by several forms of state social security schemes, more than 50% of the population in less developed nations is not covered against the basic risks according to Van Ginneken (cited in Jütting 2000:1).

As argued by Jütting (2000:1), the main risks that the populations in the developing countries face are “illness, disability, death, widowhood, riots and natural disasters are some examples of typical risks which lead to fluctuating incomes and thereby affect the quality of life”. Unlike in developing countries, the population in the developed countries is generally protected either by state or by market-based insurance systems. In developing countries the majority of the population does not have access to state or to market-based social insurance (Jütting 2000:1).

According to Fapohunda (2012:36), “the informal sector is the part of an economy that is not taxed, monitored by any form of government, or included in any gross national product (GNP), unlike the formal economy”.

According to National Social Security Fund (NSSF), the pension branch provides insurance against the risks associated with old age, disability and death. As many developed and developing countries, Rwanda has a social security and pension system consisting of three pillars which are: a Public Pension, Private Occupational Voluntary pension and Private Personal Voluntary pension. The main features of these pillars will be discussed in the first part of the thesis.

The Second part will analyze the current status of the pension system in Rwanda. The limits and reforms envisaged under the Rwandan Vision 2020 policies will be discussed. One major problem is that the coverage of the pension system in Rwanda is insufficient. For the pension and occupational hazards, only formal sector (+/- 6% of active population) is covered by the publicly managed scheme. However, all other workers are excluded. One of the objectives of the Rwandan Vision 2020 policies is to achieve universal social security coverage. Compared to the poor coverage under the pension system, Rwanda has one of the best health insurance in sub-Saharan Africa (Shimeles, 2010:6, 15), whereby above 90% of Rwandans are covered. The contrast between the two systems under social security will be highlighted.

The third part will examine the current pension systems in Europe in order to determine what the Rwandan pension system can learn from the developed countries. Based on an analysis of the current status but also on envisaged reforms in the pensions systems in Rwanda; this third party will try to examine what a reform of pension system in Rwanda may learn from the developed countries.

Research Question: How can Rwanda improve its pension systems, learning from developed counties?

Research Methods: During the research I will make a review of literature, use existing data for Rwanda and both the European and OECD countries make a comparative analysis; electronic sources.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is een denktank en kennisnetwerk. Netspar is gericht op een goed geïnformeerd pensioendebat.


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