Virus hit pensioners' purse

Wednesday October 06 2021
Pensioners in Kenya's Laikipia County in 2020

Pensioners in Kenya's Laikipia County in 2020, demonstrating after some missed their monthly disbursement promised by the govt to cushion them from Covid-19 economic hardships. PHOTO | FILE


As life slowly gets to a new normal after close to two years of the global pandemic, almost everyone has had to adjust and adopt, if for anything, survival.

Social places and lives could be getting back to full services but there is a group of people who will have to adjust more than others.

These are pensioners and people who either went into retirement or were forced into retirement early because of job cuts.

Rwanda, like many African countries does not have a structured policy for minimum wage, exposing many workers to exploitation and paltry pensions if any, on retirement. For many, the pandemic accelerated the suffering.

Take Bitiriki Mark for example. The company he worked for sent him on an early retirement by one year, and reduced by half salaries of others following cut backs brought on by Covid restrictions.

According to the Rwanda pensions law, those who have worked for at least 15 years are entitled to a monthly pension of 30 per cent of their pre-retirement gross salary.


But the computation is based on the average gross salary earned in the past five years before retirement, that's why Bitiriki opted to retire early before the salary cut, which would have reduced his pension benefits.

In the process of chasing the pay out, he found that the company did not remit all his contributions to the pension scheme. It ended up being a laborious process, which ended up in court, delaying his benefits and costing him money he didn’t plan on spending.

"This is the worst time to go into retirement, the price of many things has doubled, domestic pressures are at their highest. This is not how I envisioned the start of my retirement. Pension benefits are so small, and we don't even know how they are calculated."

Some pensioners in Rwanda for instance earn as low as Rwf7,000 ($7), a month, a situation perpetuated by the absence of a minimum wage, which determines how much someone earns therefore how much they earn in pension benefits.

And now the pandemic has made workers more desperate and open to exploitation by employers. They agree to skewed terms of employment.

Then there are pensioners who had no safety net even of the paltry monthly stipend and depended on their children for support. The pandemic hit and that support disappeared with job and business losses.

It has become hard for those in retirement to support themselves yet they also have dependants, while others are in poor health.

There are a lucky few whose pension plans accord them medical care, but at a cost of 15 percent of his pensions package.

Africain Biraboneye, the secretary-general of Cestrar, Rwanda’s umbrella trade said although the pandemic has aggravated pensioners pains, many of the problems predate the virus.