Migrant labourers are closely associated with the market economy and the economic integration process. They are an indispensable part of the country’s socio-economic development. It is unimaginable that industrial parks or major cities such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City have no migrant workers.
For this reason, experts have called for social security policies designed for those labourers, such as social and health insurance, to ensure their rights and interest and sustainable development.
A gap in policy
In Vietnam, the number of labourers who migrate from rural to urban areas is much greater than that of those who move overseas.
According to Le Thanh Sang, Director of the Southern Institute for Social Sciences, the State has issued many progressive policies to ensure social security for migrant labourers, but those policies face many barriers in reality, one of which is the mechanism of management based on residence registration and subsidization.
Migrant labourers move frequently to seek jobs, making social security policies based on residence registration ineffective. Labourers not only lose access to support from localities where they have residence registration but also are denied of support from the host locality where they move to. This is a gap in policy.
Former Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Trong Dam admitted that at present, migrant labourers living under the poverty line are not eligible for social security support in their host localities, because existing laws have not covered this case. A number of NGOs have proposed policy changes to give migrant labourers access to poverty reduction policies, but this is not easy work.
Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung quoted statistics that as of the end of 2018, only 270,000 out of around 34 million labourers in the country joined voluntary social insurance, or 0.8 percent.
As for Vietnamese guest workers in other countries, Dinh Duy Hung, deputy head of the Department of Revenue under the Vietnam Social Security (VSS), reported that there were about half a million Vietnamese workers working abroad. The figure is increasing by 100,000 each year. They are subject of voluntary social insurance, but only 6,000 of them have joined.
Concerted solutions needed
To provide migrant labourers with essential social security services, several laws have been amended to cover them, such as the Law on Social Insurance, Law on Employment and Labour Law.
The 2014 Law on Health Insurance has stipulated the right to accessing medical and health care services based on temporary residence registration. On the other hand, the social security strategy for 2012-2020 has also defined that migrant labourers are among vulnerable groups eligible for support.
Migrant workers from other countries have also been included in groups subject to compulsory social insurance since December 1, 2018. This is the first time Vietnamese laws have stipulated on compulsory social insurance for foreigners working in Vietnam.
This raises a question that why the rate of migrant labourers joining voluntary social insurance remains low despite various policies targeting them. In reply to this question, Tran Hai Nam, deputy director of the Social Insurance Department under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, attributed it to the ineffective enforcement and popularisation of the policies.
“For example, the popularisation of policies through the mass media such as TV, radio or newspapers will fail to reach migrant workers, as they go to work early in the morning and return late at night,” Nam said.
Discussing why migrant workers are not keen to join social insurance, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung pointed out other reasons such as low and instable income, obstacles in paper work, and the long time of contribution (20 years) required for retirement benefit.
To attract more migrant labourers to participate in social insurance in general and voluntary social insurance in particular, management agencies should take concerted solutions to the above-mentioned problems. The State has provided premium subsidies for participants of voluntary social insurance, but the level of subsidy should rise along with time. Communication activities on related policies should be diversified in forms to reach migrant workers, especially those in the informal sector.
The VSS is working in this direction, mobilizing social and mass organisations such as the Youth Union, the Women’s Union and the Farmers’ Union.
In particular, the responsibility of all-level Party committees and administration for implementing Resolution 28-NQ/TW has been specified, with the target on expanding social insurance coverage included into criteria to assess the performance of localities. Localities are required to adopt measures to stimulate economic growth, create jobs, stabilize workers’ income, and promote the shift of labour from the informal to formal sector, in order to expand opportunities to access social insurance for labourers.
The social insurance agencies have also intensified the application of IT, modernization of their management systems, and reform of administration procedures and streamlining of professional process to ensure the full and quick provision of social insurance benefits.
For Vietnamese guest workers, State agencies and social insurance agencies need to negotiate and sign bilateral and multilateral agreements on social security in order to help the workers access social security policies of the host countries./.