Extending social security coverage to workers in informal economy - webinar

On 04 June 2020 the ILO DWT/CO Moscow held a Subregional Webinar “Extending social security coverage to workers in informal economy”. This was the second webinar in a series of webinars devoted to social protection response to COVID-19 pandemic.

News | 04 June 2020

Ms Kholoud Al-Khaldi, Deputy Director, ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, opened the webinar, welcoming 101 participants, who represented governmental institutions, employer’s and worker’s organizations.

Ms Al- Khaldi stressed that ILO estimates show that due to the impact of COVID pandemic,  and without any alternative income sources, lost labour income will result in an increase in relative poverty for informal workers and their families of more than 21 percentage points in upper-middle-income countries, almost 52 points in high-income countries and 56 points in lower- and low-income countries.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic calls not only for rapid and effective measures to enhance income security for workers in the informal economy; but also for well designed medium and long term measures that will enable inclusion of these workers into national social protection systems. Likewise, there is a need to adjust the design and financing of national social protection systems to be able to respond to the needs of population.

Ms. Christina Behrendt, Head of the Social Policy Unit, Social Protection Department, ILO Geneva  and  Ms. Quynh Anh Nguyen, Social Protection Technical Officer, Social Protection Department, ILO Geneva presented the ILO Resource Package  Extending Social Security to Workers in Informal Economy: Lessons from international experience which serves as a practical tool for policy makers, workers’ and employers’ organizations and other stakeholders to develop viable policy options to address the multi-fold challenges of extending social protection to workers in the informal economy and facilitating transitions to formality. The guidebook has been translated into Russian language to provide policymakers, workers’ and employer’s organizations in the ECIS sub-region and other stakeholders a reference point in their attempts to remove the barriers that prevent workers in some forms of employment from being protected.

Mr. Finn Koh, Project Manager, ILO Cambodia, highlighted the role of technologies in facilitating access to social protection. Technology and new forms of employment present a unique opportunity for late starters to leapfrog and avoid the mistakes made by other developed countries. The ILO Resource Package contains many examples of how social security is extended to workers in the informal economy. Extending social protection to workers in the informal economy is about political will and technology, legal mechanism and policy innovation are all tools to support the strategy designed.

Mr. Nikita Lyutov, Professor, Head of Department of Labour and Social Security Law at the Kutafin Moscow State Law University, MSAL, described proposals for formalising labour relations of workers in the platform economy in the Russian Federation. Digital platform work was widespread in Russia prior to COVID -19 epidemic and grew further with increased demand for delivery workers, homeworkers and domestic workers. Digital platform workers cannot a priori be classified as self-employed, bogus self-employed or domestic workers, because the classification in each case depends on the nature of their activity as well as on the design of the relationship between the platform and the client. Mr Nikita Lyutov concluded that adequate responses for an access to social security for digital platform workers should have the objective to guarantee a minimum level of protection.

Participants discussed the role and design of integrated social security information systems, the necessary conditions to extend the coverage and the need to adapt to the developments in the world of work.  Discussions echoed The Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work (2019) framework for achievement of universal social protection which proposes the need to improve and adapt systems to changing economic and social contexts, support labour mobility and work transitions with sustainable and equitable financing for achievement of universal social as well as comprehensive and adequate social protection.

Two more webinars are still to be held. They will address such topics such as rapid tool to assess the situation of workers in the informal economy and a review of policy responses in the sub-region.