BackgroundThe ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will become a reality for its 600 million women and men in 2015. This will lead to free flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labour in the region. The ASEAN integration will impact the structure of economies, drive innovation and could double productivity in the coming decade. However, enhanced productivity may bring higher incomes for some, such as the high-skilled, but could also exacerbate inequality, leaving some workers, mainly among the lower skilled and migrant workers, off those economic gains (ADB/ILO, 2014).
With such development ahead of the ASEAN integration, social protection will play a crucial role by compensating for the short-term loss of income and facilitating access to education and skills, with positive impacts on the overall productivity of the workforce and economic growth in the longer term. While social protection is recognized as a key element for buffering social impact of economic changes, implications for maintaining and extending adequate social security to all, especially with new challenges posed by the regional integration, is a major concern raised by the ASEAN countries.
At the 23rd ASEAN Summit in Brunei Darussalam in October 2013, the ten ASEAN Leaders adopted a Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection, which reaffirms their commitment to building an ASEAN community that is “socially responsible and people-oriented” (ASEAN Member States, Cambodia , 2012), through at least the establishment of nationally-defined social protection floors for all.
The Declaration also recalls the commitment made by ASEAN Leaders when adopting the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (Cebu, 2007) that recognizes the right of migrant workers to have equal access to social protection. Indeed, between 1990 and 2013, intra-ASEAN migration increased from 1.5 million to 6.5 million, with Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand emerging as major migration hubs (ILO/ADB 2014). In ASEAN countries as elsewhere in the world, migrant workers are often excluded from social insurance and non-contributory schemes. They stand at risk of losing their social security entitlements in their home countries, while at the same time encountering restrictive qualifying conditions and practical barriers (e.g. documentation, language, access to information, among others) in the host country to effectively access to the national social protection system.
The proposed discussions at the Tripartite seminar for enhancing social protection in an integrated ASEAN community will contribute to the realization of the commitment by ASEAN Member States towards more social justice affirmed by the adoption of the Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection (Brunei Darussalam, 2013), the ASEAN Leaders Statement on Human Resources and Skills Development for Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth (Hanoi, 2010), and the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (Cebu, 2007).
The seminar will also contribute to the ILO global awareness campaign of the Areas of Critical Importance on Creating and Extending Social Protection Floors” (ACI/SPF).
ObjectivesThe overall objective of the seminar is to provide the opportunity for informed discussions on the role of social protection policies in facilitating ASEAN economic, social and cultural integration, by smoothing national economic upgrades and by offering cross-borders social protection.
It is expected that the discussions will assist policy makers and practitioners in enhancing their social security systems and improving their harmonization for future social security agreements and extension of social protection floors to all.
More specifically, the seminar aims at:
- Recalling ILO’s Conventions and Recommendations related to social security, including instruments for promoting migrant workers’ social security, and opportunity found in social protection floors and more comprehensive social security systems;
- Sharing the findings of a regional review of existing social protection policies and systems;
- Discussing indicators to measure the progress in extending social protection across the ten ASEAN Member States;
- Presenting preliminary findings of a review of migrant workers’ access to social protection in ASEAN;
- Discussing among ASEAN Member States possible areas for South-South cooperation for fostering migrant workers’ access to social protection floors, harmonizing social security systems and ultimately engaging into social security agreements.