Launch of study on the digitalisation of China’s social security administration and services for universal social security

Press release | 17 June 2021
Beijing(ILO News) — The ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) in collaboration with the EU launched a new study on the digital transformation of social insurance administration and services to ensure universal social security coverage in China. The study aims to support the development of a digital transformation strategy and a data governance plan for China’s social insurance administration. The Information Center of MOHRSS and the Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance of United Nations University (UNU-EGOV) will collaborate in this study. About 30 participants attended the launch event on 17 June 2021.

Mr Dai Xiaochu, Officer-in-Charge of ILO Country Office for China and Mongolia pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of social security administration and made social security services more inclusive. While recognizing the role of digitalization as an accelerator for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, a human-centered approach has to be in place to ensure that digitalization and technology will not exacerbate inequalities and discrimination. He suggested the study to pay attention to the equity, accessibility and inclusiveness of technology, security and privacy of data and building of new capacity and digital skills.

Mr Zhang Jiahui, Chief Engineer of the Information Center of MOHRSS, shared the progress in digitalization of social security in the past decade whilst recognizing the challenges posed by extending coverage to workers in new forms of work, and the high expectations on social security services for more accessible, diverse and customized services. The Information Center is in charge of informatization of national social security planning, system design and construction within MOHRSS and plays a key role in supporting policy making and core service development in the area of social security.

Mr Luis Frota, Project Manager of the EU-China Social Protection Project, highlighted that the objective of the study is to develop a digital transformation strategy and a data governance plan based on situation analysis and review of international experiences. He indicated that the study will draw on best international practice and expertise but will also address the specific needs of Chinese context. The study will implement a two-way learning strategy through a series of joint learning activities. He also shared that the project would launch a digital social security hackathon, aimed to collect innovate ideas for making social security more accessible to platform workers and the flexibly employed.

Mr Raul Ruggia-Frick, Director of Social Security Development Branch, International Social Security Association (ISSA), shared the digital social security workplan 2021-22 of ISSA through a pre-recorded presentation. Social security digitalization constitutes one of the main working areas of ISSA. ISSA will contribute to the study by sharing global good practices, co-organizing meetings and supporting connections with other ISSA member institutions.

Ms Margaux Verhaeghe, Project Officer of Foreign Policy Instruments of EU Delegation to China, gave a presentation on social security data communication at EU level, in particular the Electronic Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) system. The EESSI system supports data exchange and coordination among EU countries by using digital technologies, to achieve cross-border interoperability and offer user-friendly services to EU citizens.

Ms Qin Jingyi, Deputy Director of Social Security System Management Division, Information Center of MOHRSS provided an overview of the overall work plan, including concrete steps in each research block. Various research methods and tools will be adopted and monthly working-level meetings will be organized with UNU-EGOV and the ILO. The study is expected to be completed by May 2022.

The UNU-EGOV research team led by Ms Delfina Soares, Head and Mr Morten Meyerhoff, Project Manager gave a brief introduction of UNU-EGOV and their contribution to the research through a pre-recorded video. UNU-EGOV is part of the United Nations University and support the UN and its Member States in transforming the mechanism of governance and building effective governance capacities through the strategic application of digital technologies. UNU-EGOV will contribute to all the components of the study and lead the development of an international good practice report.

Representatives from provinces expressed their expectations and suggestions for the study. Zhejiang representative highlighted the importance to have a clear understanding of the basic but key concepts such as information, data, digital transformation and the relationship between government and digitalization. Chongqing representative raised concerns about the challenge to digitalization in the current context of fragmented social security policy and institutional environment. Henan representative emphasized the crucial role of data quality.

Mr Xu Yanjun, Director-General Level Counsel, Social Insurance Administration of MOHRSS concluded the event by clarifying that China is current at the data sharing stage and has not yet entered into the digital governance phase. The study shall focus on building digital environment, enhancing digital technology and its application. He expected the study would contribute to the transformation of digital social security in support of optimized services, policy making processes and administration. The success of the study would contribute to global good practices of digital transformation of social security.