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An Overview of the Law by Decree on Social Security

Gaza - Wednesday, 11 May 2016: In partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung - Palestinian Territories, the Institute of Law (IoL) of Birzeit University organised a legal encounter,

entitled An Overview of the Law by Decree on Social Security. Delivered by Mr. Muhsen Abu Ramadan, Development Researcher, the event brought together members of the legal community, academics, human rights activists, and interested individuals. 

In her opening remarks, Ms. Lina at Tounisi, Coordinator of the IoL Gaza Office, welcomed the speaker and audience and made a briefing note about the IoL Legal Encounters programme.

Abu Ramadan asserted that there was no urgent need to enact the Law by Decree on Social Security No. 6 of 2016. Laws which maintain workers’ rights are already in place, including the 2000 Labour Law and 2005 Law on Public Retirement. Countries have consistently strove to consolidate similar legal positions, rather than create new ones, resulting in an entrenched legal fragmentation and divide.

Abu Ramadan maintained that consultations were not held with relevant institutions or civil society organisations, particularly in the Gaza Strip. “The result is the state of chaos and confusion, which we now see,” Abu Ramadan commented. The Law by Decree on Social Security does not provide adequate redress to employees in civil society organisations and private sector. A key drawback is that the Law by Decree does not state that the government should provide sufficient guarantees. On the other hand, the Public Retirement Law is backed by the government.

Supplemental insurance for senility is one of the most controversial aspects. According to the Law by Decree on Social Security, this insurance only covers eight times more than the minimum wage. Amounts in excess are not subject to pensions. Unclearly, however, surplus amounts are transferred to the supplemental fund. Abu Ramadan also explained that “severance pay is an acquired right under the Labour Law.” Any new regulation must take account of prior entitlements and rights.

Abu Ramadan maintained that the Law by Decree on Social Security “discriminates against working women, including the right to receive a paid maternity leave as provided by the Labour Law.” According to the Law by Decree, working women do not have the right to a maternity leave unless they subscribe to maternity insurance for six months prior to delivery. Compared to the Public Retirement Law, the Law by Decree on Social Security does not provide for personal, family or cost of living allowance. It does not include the system of defined contributions. In addition to the different percentage of calculated pensions, most provisions on coverage and due payments vary from the Public Retirement Law.

Participants raised questions and made some informed interventions in the ensuing discussion. Most importantly, the Law by Decree on Social Security does not provide any mechanisms to guarantee properties of the Social Security Fund, whereby entitlements and acquired rights ensured by the Public Retirement Law and Labour Law may be lost. Rather than adding more loopholes or shortfalls, any new law must build on strengths. The Law by Decree on Social Security puts in serious jeopardy workers in the private sector. There is no need for a new legal split. Not to mention the lack of government contributions, the Law by Decree exhausts worker resources, which are disbursed to cover operating expenses. Finally, discussants recommended that an inclusive community dialogue be launched to produce a more equitable law, which safeguards workers’ rights. Rather than repealing the Law by Decree, what is required is to maintain an informed, professional process to ensure a minimum decent standard of living for workers.