SINGAPORE—Universal unemployment insurance (UUI), online registration, and wage subsidies were among the measures proposed at the ongoing 17th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) of the International Labor Organization (ILO) to give social welfare protection to vulnerable workers.
During the panel discussion on social protection and employment on Thursday, Department of Social Welfare Chung-Ang University Associate Professor of Social Policy Sophia Seung-Yoon Lee said the Korean government introduced a UUI with the start of the pandemic.
This was in response to the large number of workers, particularly those in the informal sector, and new forms of work such as platform employment, who were not covered by Korea’s initial unemployment insurance model since they have no, or have a complicated employer-employee relationship.
“So Korea was having a hard time recognizing who their main employer is. For example multiple employer, platform workers, self-employed workers, part time workers also, part-time workers who are in multiple workplaces,” Seung-Yoon Lee said.
“Recognizing the limitations of the current unemployment insurance, a universal unemployment insurance has been introduced in 2020 in December,” she added.
The Korean government, she said, was able to “decouple” the UUI from employer-employee relationship, by basing it on income instead and using new technology for its implementation.
The initiative, she said, is currently being implemented in phases, starting with temporary workers, then part-time workers, artists, and the self-employed, before if fully covers the poor.
Government registration, support
ALSO presented during the APRM is the initiative of the government of Bahrain to provide protection to its informal sector employers, by encouraging them to register with the government through an online portal in exchange for incentives.
“Basically they get legalized. They will have access to subsidies to support training and development and this is one of the ways where we are bringing them to the formal from informal capacity,” Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sonya Janahi told the plenary session on revitalizing productivity growth and skills.
To encourage the transition of informal sector workers to the formal sector, Janahi said Bahrain also provided subsidies to registered employers.
“The government subsidized 70 percent of salaries for Year 1; 50 percent for Year 2; and 30 percent for Year 3,” she said.
The measure was considered a “win-win” for the government, employers, and workers since it helped address the workforce needs of the private sector whiile providing employment to the jobless.
ELMER Labog, Kilusang Mayo Uno Chairman and a Philippine delegate in the APRM, stressed the need for such initiatives after the pandemic led to the “proliferation” informal workers and non-regular workforce.
Labor Undersecretary Benedicto Ernesto R. Bitonio Jr., however, said the new measures presented may face challenges if applied in the Philippine setting.
The UUI, for example, will need a new law to be implemented since the country’s existing unemployment insurance depends on a worker’s membership with the Social Security System (SSS).
“That will need legislation because it is specified in our law that unemployment insurance [is] for those who lost their jobs and have an employer-employee relationship,” Bitonio told the BusinessMirror in an interview.
The labor official, who represents the government in APRM, said another issue with the UUI will be who will shoulder its cost.
“So it has many implications. We are not saying it is impossible, but for now, it is not possible,” Bitonio said.