Social pensions and accountability in Uganda

Submitted by dfabbri on Wed, 07/31/2019 - 10:21

HelpAge International (25.07.2019) Across Africa, millions of older people live in poverty. Without access to pensions and eroding traditions of family support, many have no choice but to continue working into older age doing small-scale, low-paid farming or petty trade. For those who have disabilities or are in ill health, they may have no option to work. Without reliable incomes, older people lead precarious lives on the brink of poverty.

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In 2011, the Uganda Government, in partnership with the UK Department for International Development, Irish Aid and the United Nations Children’s Fund, launched the Senior Citizens Grant as part of the wider Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE). It is a non-contributory social pension of 25,000 Ugandan shillings (US$7) a month.

In the first districts it was introduced, all older people above the age of 65 were eligible for the scheme, except in Karamoja where the age of eligibility was lowered to 60 years to reflect the lower life expectancy. After reaching more than 100,000 older people, the Government rolled it out to an additional 40 districts, although in these areas only the 100 oldest people in each sub-county are eligible. As of June 2019, more than 160,000 older people had been enrolled onto the scheme.

We have continued to advocate for the pension to be universal across Uganda, and in July 2019 this became a reality. Everyone 80 and over in Uganda is now eligible. Although the age is too high to effectively reach all older people in need, it does mean 365,000 Ugandans will now have a regular, reliable income, and it provides a foundation on which to campaign for a lower eligibility age. All existing recipients of the pension under 80 will continue to receive it. 

How do social pensions help older Ugandans?

While the amount of money is modest, it has made a big difference to those it reaches.