MANILA, Philippines – The government needs to step up its efforts to include more Filipino migrant workers in social protection schemes after the pandemic showed how many overseas workers were left vulnerable.
In a webinar hosted by the state-run think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the Center for Migrant Advocacy-Philippines said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should have access to social protection even in their destination countries.
CMA Executive Director Ellene Sana said that there are many exclusions regarding access to social protection for OFWs, especially in the destination countries.
To address this, Sana stressed that the government should proactively negotiate social protection measures that include migrant domestic workers in the bilateral employment agreements.
“There should be proactive monitoring of private recruitment agencies and employers to ensure that they comply with the provisions on social protection in employment contracts,” Sana said.
“Social protection is intended to be a solidarity program for the social partners, employers, workers and our government as a regulator,” she said.
While the Philippine government has programs under the Social Security System, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and Pag-IBIG, among others, not all OFWs are able to benefit from them.
Worse, a large proportion of OFWs do not have social protection in the countries in which they work.
The most common benefits that OFWs receive are those that meet immediate needs on the spot rather than those that are considered safety nets that allow them to smooth out consumption in times of shock.
Basic jobs such as health insurance, overtime pay, paid sick leave and work accident compensation are less common, and such a situation exposes a significant portion of the Philippines.
migrant workers as potentially vulnerable because they do not have access to social protection.
Sana argued that such a problem became more apparent at the beginning of the pandemic of stranded Filipino migrant workers who were excluded from aid in the countries where they work.
She said one reason is that the majority of OFWs are not recognized as ordinary workers and that there is an existing notion that they have difficulty bearing their contributions.
“The point is that the state makes rules so that it is not just one party that pays for the contribution. The whole idea of social security is the solidarity contribution that comes from both workers and employers, ”said Sana.