Southeast Asian migrant workers are no longer just emigrating to developed countries, increasingly they're moving within the region.
With cross-border labour migration increasing, one question for governments has been how to ensure their citizens enjoy social security benefits abroad.
In light of this, labour authorities from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (CLMTV) are working toward an agreement that would guarantee migrant workers’ access to social security when overseas.
They met at the two-day 4th senior official meeting on labour co-operation amongst the CLMTV grouping on Monday in Hanoi.
Allowing workers enrolled in social security programmes in their original country to claim their benefits in another country has become a priority issue for some members of the grouping.
While there’s no official record of the number of annual Vietnamese migrant workers, Vietnam’s Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (LISA) said there are upwards of 76,000 Vietnamese people currently working in CLMTV countries.
The majority of Vietnamese workers are concentrated in Thailand with 50,000, followed by Laos with 20,000 and Cambodia with 6,000.
“Most of the Vietnamese migrant workers in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are independent individual workers. Only a small number are workers deployed to these countries as part of a contracted project or investment,” said Tran Hai Nam, deputy head of the Ministrys social insurance department.
Meanwhile, Vietnam currently hosts about 1,000 workers from countries in the CLMTV area, with the majority coming from Thailand (950), Myanmar and Cambodia with 25 people and Laos with nine.
Nam said these migrant workers in Vietnam are legal, with proper work permits and holding mostly manager, executive, technician and expert roles.
Vietnam’s deputy labour minister Doan Mau Diep expressed his hope that the discussions and presentations within the framework of the conference would bring a clearer understanding of migrant workers’ situation, as well as laws and policies in each country of the CLMTV grouping.
The attention paid to migrant workers would bring “practical benefits to the people and economic development of each country,” Diep said.
The theme of this meeting is in line with attempts to realise the commitments contained in the joint-statement of CLMTV labour ministers in their second convention in August 2017.
This meeting is also helping prepare the agenda for the third ministers’ meeting, slated for Cambodia in 2019, Diep said.
Markus Ruck, an expert on social policy from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said at the conference that despite the significant impacts of migrant workers, their benefit protection concerns have not been properly addressed due to each country’s lax regulations and a dearth of bilateral agreements on the issue.
Delegates from the five member countries shared their country’s social insurance policies and practices for migrant workers. They also got updates about the approval and implementation of ILO's conventions and recommendations on social protection for migrant workers.