Stakeholder consensus on extending health care benefits to retired workers and families of trans-provincial workers

A virtual consultation on the findings of the study on Social Protection extension to workers post retirement and families of trans-provincial workers is planned by the ILO project on ‘Achieving SDGs and ending poverty through USP’. The purpose of the consultation is to discuss and find consensus on the most practical options for extension of coverage to the two groups under discussion.

Press release | A web base event | 25 June 2021
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (ILO News)::“Social security (health) benefits should continue for formal economy workers when they retire from the world of work. Similarly, family members of trans-provincial workers should also be covered by social security through an inter-provincial data & resource-sharing arrangement under the ambit of Interprovincial Coordination Council”. These were conclusions of an online tripartite-plus consultation organized by International Labour Organization (ILO).

Stakeholders representing Interprovincial Coordination Council, Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and HRD, Provincial Employees Social Security Institutions, Employees’ Old Age Benefits Institutions, Workers’ Welfare Fund, Ministry of Finance, Sehat Sahulat Programme, representatives of workers’ organizations/trade unions and national experts on labour and social security joined the virtual consultation to discuss findings of the study on extension of social security to retired workers and families of trans-provincial workers.

Mr Azhar Hameed, ILO’s Consultant, presented key findings of the study and options on providing social security coverage to retired workers and families of trans-provincial workers. Mr Hameed tabled solutions requiring administrative arrangements to be put in place that are viable and immediate, but pronounced the need for universal social protection through progressive increase in coverage.

The stakeholders discussed options presented and agreed on two options:
i) Universal health coverage through a gradual extension of the Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) currently targeted at those below poverty thresholds defined in the National Socio Economic Registry.
  • Phase 1- should focus on retirees and trans-provincial workers who are living below the poverty line.
  • Phase 2- should include those who can contribute as pensioners from EOBI.
  •  Phase 3- should cover existing workers registered under ESSI’s through partial deduction from employees and partial contribution from Government on workers’ behalf.
This arrangement would work through an arrangement of contribution deposit or social contracts between provinces for contribution to Federal SSP.

ii) For families of trans-provincial workers, the settlement through monthly exchange accounts under the existing setup of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) was discussed as the easiest of the solutions.

Mr Usman Alvi, Joint Secretary CCI; Mr Ali Muttaqi, Employees Old Age Benefits Institution; Mr Ch. Nasim, President Pakistan Workers Federation; Mr Babar Abbas, DG PESSI expressed their appreciation on a well-designed study and proposed that these options are further carved out for actualisation.

Mr Kaiser Bengali, National Expert on Social Protection, proposed that the extension was possible if existing social protection schemes are linked to citizen status rather than linking it with employment status and they should be State funded and taxation based.

Ms Mariko Ouchi, Senior Social Security Specialist, ILO emphasised on the need for universal coverage and progressively moving towards the achievement of it. Ms Ouchi also said that this could be achieved through a combination of contributory and non-contributory schemes. For Pakistan, this mix should be determined through a process of social dialogue and stakeholders’ engagement, she added.

It was suggested that the options agreed on could be further discussed and taken forward by the Social Security Coordination Forum convened and chaired by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and HRD.

The study is supported under the project on, ‘Achieving SDGs and Ending Poverty through Universal Social Protection’, supported under the UN Peace and Development Trust Fund by the Government of China and jointly implemented by UNDESA and the ILO.