The Mekong Migration Network (MMN) has welcomed commitments made by governments of the CLMTV on the “portability” of social security for migrant workers in Southeast Asia.
During a two-day Policy Dialogue on the Roles of Countries of Origin this week organised by the MMN, representatives of governments, recruitment agencies’ associations and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) from Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam jointly developed recommendations to enhance migrant workers’ access to various social protection schemes, including social security systems.
Representatives of governments, CSOs, recruitment agencies’ associations from Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, the Embassies of the Republic of the Philippines and Japan in Phnom Penh and intergovernmental organisations gathered in Phnom Penh to hear research findings from the MMN’s most recent publication and discuss how countries of origin can expand their role in enhancing migrants’ access to social protection across borders. The Policy Dialogue took place in tandem with a Labour Ministerial Conference held on 17 September in Siem Reap between governments of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (CLMTV) aimed at creating a joint framework on the portability of social security for migrant workers in CLMTV. The MMN welcomes commitments made by governments of CLMTV in this regard.
Between 2018 and 2019, the MMN conducted a research project to examine current efforts in countries of origin, namely Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, to facilitate migrant workers’ access to social protection throughout the migration cycle and highlight migrants’ experiences in accessing these mechanisms. The resulting study, entitled, “Social Protection Across Borders: Roles of Countries of Origin”, is based on case studies of migrant workers currently in Thailand, migrant returnees in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam and interviews with government officials, CSOs and recruitment agencies’ associations. The report highlights recurring issues faced by migrant workers across the three countries in accessing social protection schemes in destination countries and at home.
Ms Chou Bun Eng, Secretary of State, Ministry of Interior of Cambodia, noted in her keynote speech the importance of multilateral collaboration among countries of origin in protecting migrants’ rights.
She stated, “We face common issues across countries of origin and need common solutions. Sometimes we can work separately, but the results are different when we collaborate to bring issues to destination countries.”
Ms Yin Yin Ohn, Deputy Director-General, Social Security Board, Ministry of Labour,
Immigration and Population, Myanmar, remarked, “We recognise the importance of social protection for migrant workers…Myanmar is currently negotiating with destination countries such as Malaysia and Thailand to enable the portability of social security for Myanmar workers.”
During the Policy Dialogue, participants addressed a number of topics, including the current initiatives by different stakeholders to disseminate information relating to social protection schemes of destination countries, types of support available to migrant workers by embassies and diplomatic missions, the roles and responsibilities of recruitment agencies in assisting migrant workers’ access to social protection and the current progress regarding the establishment of mechanisms to support portable social security between destination countries and countries of origin.
In order to better promote migrant workers’ access to social protection, participants collectively developed recommendations focusing on several aspects of the migration journey. Key recommendations for governments of countries of origin include:
- Ensuring information relevant to migrant workers’ benefits and rights is available, understandable
- and accessible;
- Enhancing cooperation between Labour Attachés/Counsellors and different stakeholders, such as
- CSOs, in order to strengthen migrant workers’ access to social protection;
- Effectively monitoring recruitment agencies to make sure they comply with legal standards; and
- Encouraging recruitment agencies to adopt and uphold industry Codes of Conduct.
In the long term, countries of origin should ensure uninterrupted and transferrable social protection regardless of migrants’ location of work; encourage the formation of a subcommittee under the
ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers to establish a framework for the portability of social protection; develop inclusive social protection schemes that migrants can voluntarily participate in and access when abroad; and establish flexible money transfer systems enabling migrants to contribute to social protection schemes through digital systems. Countries of origin should also take steps towards establishing a welfare fund for migrants in their respective countries at the appropriate time.