SINGAPORE – Universal Unemployment Insurance (UUI), online registration and wage subsidies were among the measures proposed at the ongoing 17th Asia and Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) of the International Labor Organization (ILO) to provide social protection for vulnerable workers.
During Thursday’s panel discussion on social protection and employment, Sophia Seung-Yoon Lee, associate professor of social policy at Chung-Ang University’s Department of Social Welfare, said the Korean government introduced a UUI with the onset of the pandemic.
This was in response to the large numbers of workers, particularly in the informal sector, and new forms of work such as platform employment, which were not covered by Korea’s original unemployment insurance model as they have no or a complicated employer-employee relationship.
“So Korea had trouble realizing who its main employer is. For example, multiple employers, platform workers, self-employed, also part-time workers, part-time workers working in multiple jobs,” said Seung-Yoon Lee.
“Universal unemployment insurance was introduced in December 2020 in recognition of the limitations of current unemployment insurance,” she added.
The Korean government, she said, has been able to “decouple” IUI from the employer-employee relationship, instead basing it on income and using new technologies to implement it.
The initiative, she said, is currently being implemented in phases, starting with temporary workers, then part-time workers, artists and the self-employed before fully covering the poor.
State registration, support
ALSO, presented during the APRM, is the Bahrain government’s initiative to provide protection to its informal sector employers by encouraging them to register with the government through an online portal to receive incentives.
“Basically, they will be legalized. They will have access to subsidies to support training and development, and this is one of the ways we are moving them from informal to formal capacities,” said Sonya Janahi of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the plenary session on reviving productivity growth and productivity Capabilities.
To encourage the transition of workers from the informal sector to the formal sector, Janahi said Bahrain also provides subsidies to registered employers.
“The government subsidized 70 percent of salaries for the first year; 50 percent for Year 2; and 30 percent for the third year,” she said.
The measure was seen as a “win-win” for government, employers and workers as it helped to meet private sector labor needs while keeping the unemployed employed.
ELMER Labog, Chair of Kilusang Mayo Uno and Philippine delegate in the APRM, stressed the need for such initiatives after the pandemic led to a “proliferation” of informal and irregular workers.
But Labor Undersecretary Benedicto Ernesto R. Bitonio Jr. said the new measures presented could face challenges if applied in the Philippine environment.
The UUI, for example, will need new legislation to implement because the country’s existing unemployment insurance is dependent on a worker’s membership of the Social Security System (SSS).
“This will need legislation, because unemployment insurance is laid down in our law [is] for those who have lost their jobs and have an employer-employee relationship,” Bitonio told BusinessMirror in an interview.
The labor officer representing the government in APRM said another issue with the UUI will be who will bear its costs.
“So that has a lot of implications. We’re not saying it’s impossible, but at the moment it’s not possible,” Bitonio said.