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Helping migrant workers to secure social security rights

At least 25 per cent of workers in Moldova will work abroad at some point in their career. However, few of them know that in many cases they are entitled to receive social security benefits from their destination countries once they go back home. An ILO campaign is aiming to change that perception.

Feature | 19 December 2013
Veaceslav Bicbaev, a pensioner from Moldova
BUDAPEST (ILO News) – Veaceslav Bicbaev is a 65 year-old pensioner from Moldova who worked in the Czech Republic three times at different periods of his life.

“When I retired and went back to Moldova, I tried to find out if I could receive my Czech pension. Things looked very complicated, so I dropped the idea,” he says.

“But later an old colleague of mine told me that Moldova had signed an agreement on social security with the Czech Republic. I filled in all the necessary papers and now I receive my pension from the Czech Republic. This is a significant amount of money, especially since my Moldovan pension is small,” he adds.

Over the last few years, Moldova – which is not part of the European Union – has signed similar bilateral agreements with several EU countries, and more are under way.

Under these agreements, Moldovan foreign workers are entitled to the same rights, obligations and social security benefits as nationals, including the right to receive their foreign pensions when they return home.

The problem is that very few people in Moldova know about these new rights, which prompted the ILO to launch an awareness raising campaign.

“The aim is to help people such as Veaceslav to know more about their rights. More than 200,000 copies of information leaflets have been distributed in public places, such as bus stops, train stations and airports in Moldova. The same was done at Moldovan embassies and consulates abroad,” explains Oxana Lipcanu, the ILO’s project coordinator.

Based on my own experience of working abroad, a formal work contract is much safer, as you are entitled to receive social insurance and health care."
“Two public service videos were also produced to reach an even wider audience. They were shown on national television and are available on several websites,” she adds.

The temptation to migrate is very common for Moldovans, who sometimes face difficult economic conditions at home. But because Moldova is not part of the EU, getting a proper job permit can be difficult, which fuels informal work. Therefore, the aim of the campaign is also to raise awareness that migrants should insist on getting a formal work contract when they go abroad.

“Based on my own experience of working abroad, a formal work contract is much safer, as you are entitled to receive social insurance and health care,” says Bicbaev.

“Also, even more importantly, a proper work contract means that you are treated fairly and equally. Then you can have the pension you deserve once you get back home.”

The campaign, which finishes at the end of 2013, was implemented in coordination with the Ministry of Labour, Protection and Family, and the National Social Insurance House.

It is also part of the EU funded project “Effective Governance of Labour Migration and its Skills Dimension”, which is implemented by the ILO in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the ILO’s social partners as well as Governments from the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.