National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) headquarters, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard] National Hospital Insurance Fund monthly contribution for lowest paid workers and the self-employed will be reduced from Sh500 to Sh300 starting July, according to President William Ruto. President Ruto, who spoke during Labour Day celebrations in Nairobi on Monday also announced that those who earn high salaries will contribute Sh27,000, down from Sh1,700, from the next financial year. He said he desires that every Kenya registers themselves and their families with NHIF as well as for social protection and retirement benefits through the National Social Security Fund. The President emphasized the importance of strengthening and sustaining a robust national savings culture as a matter of urgency. "Time has come for us to make poverty a thing of the past. We will do everything necessary to protect this and future generations from hardship and indignity at the end of their working years," President Ruto said. He added: "We are not doing well in terms of old age poverty. We are currently ranked 72nd out of 96 countries in the Global Age Watch Index. The implications of this are unacceptable. I want to obtain an assurance from the Secretary-General of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions that all workers will be facilitated to benefit from these programmes." At the same time, the President said the government is keen to bridge the housing deficit by constructing 200,000 housing units annually under the affordable housing programme. He said the government has allocated Sh1 billion to the Housing Fund this financial year, terming it a crucial project for workers in the lower income segments who he noted face extraordinary challenges accessing home financing. "Through the Fund, they will obtain cheaper financing products that are also stable to match the size of everyone's pocket." Dr Ruto said another Sh5 billion will be allocated in the next financial year to the housing programme. "It is a participatory plan where government employees seeking to own a home can opt to join with the government matching their savings." This is also an invitation to other employers whose employees have an interest in owning affordable homes to follow suit as we fulfil our obligation in line with Section 31 of the Employment Act which obligates every employer to provide housing to all its employees close to where they work, Ruto said. "The second measure is on voluntary contributions that allow those who are self-employed and those in the informal sector, who form the majority of our workforce, a path to home ownership. To date, the voluntary contributions have been driving the programme since its inception with over Sh2 billion already saved," said Ruto. "We want to deliver millions of new affordable housing units and stimulate an explosion of the digital economy as we seek to create employment for millions of Kenyans, increasing their earnings," Ruto said. He said the Hustler Fund is their primary vehicle for implementing financial inclusion of small-scale traders and informal sector workers, and that they have made a provision of Sh50 billion to lend to these categories. So far, the response has been tremendous with a total of Sh27.6 billion having been borrowed, Sh17.6 billion repaid and Sh 1.4 billion saved, said President Ruto. "Many workers often fall ill or get injured or are often called upon to provide care and pay for the treatment and other support of sick family members with the costs of these eventualities being steep and can trap many workers in poverty despite their hard work. To relieve workers of the burden of medical expenditures, the government has embarked on measures to implement a universal health cover that will keep the cost of treatment away from workers' wages," said Ruto. He said: "The Bottom-Up economic model recognizes that Kenya is a nation of workers, and that every worker matters, and every occupation counts. It is our intention to implement policy and strategic measures to get more workers into paid employment, ensure all labour pays fairly, and that workers are able to save, invest and grow their wealth." Ruto said they want to ensure Micro Small and Medium Enterprises and Jua Kali associations are providing inputs that will be used in the construction of affordable houses. "The government is making progress in connection with the core labour rights agenda. We are keen on fulfilling our international obligations as far as labour rights and welfare in this regard are concerned. I take this opportunity to assure Kenyan workers that we shall ratify both the International Labour Organisation Convention Number 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers as well as number 190 on the Elimination of Violence and Harassment at the Workplace," said Ruto.