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Apr 23, 2024 / 21:14

Voluntary social security should cover larger part of informal sector: Experts

People are still unaware of voluntary social insurance, partly because of the psychological expectation that they will be subsidized by the state.

Unstable income and unattractive policies are barriers that discourage many workers from enrolling in voluntary social insurance schemes, resulting in a large number of workers in Vietnam "falling through the safety net."

This was the point made by experts at the seminar on "Reducing the risk of falling through the safety net" hosted in Hanoi on April 23 by Kinh te & Do thi or Economic & Urban Newspaper/The Hanoi Times and ActionAid International in Vietnam, Program Support Fund on Vietnam Social Security. 

Experts at the seminar. Photos: Khanh Huy/The Hanoi Times

Speaking at the seminar, Do Ngoc Tho, Head of the Social Insurance Policy Implementation Department at Vietnam Social Security, said the number of people enrolled in social insurance has increased over the years but is still quite low.

"In 2022, more than 1.4 million people were covered by social security or 3.18% of the population. In 2023, the number increased to about 1.9 million people, or 4.09%. The expected number in 2024 is 2.56 million people (5.42%)," Tho said.

He attributed the low rate to the unstable income of workers in the informal sector and their unawareness of voluntary social insurance, which partly resulted from the psychological expectation that they would be subsidized by the state.

Besides, there is still a mentality deeply ingrained in the Vietnamese people's subconscious, which is "young people rely on their fathers, old people rely on their children". This is the main driver.

In addition, the current level of state support has not encouraged people to participate in voluntary social insurance. The long period (20 years) needed to pay social security contributions in order to receive a pension also deters some people.

Duong Thi Minh Chau, Head of the Communication Department at the Hanoi Social Security Department, also noticed that people were skeptical about the benefits they would receive in the future. "This is a disadvantage in terms of communication to encourage people's enrolment in voluntary social security schemes," Chau pointed out.

Communicating social insurance policies to people. Photo: Vietnam Social Security

Many synchronous solutions are needed

According to the experts, the development of voluntary social insurance will require the synchronized implementation of many solutions, from policy to practice, especially in the development of the Social Insurance Law (amended), which is expected to be passed by the National Assembly this year.

"The policy gap between formal and informal workers also needs to be addressed. This is because formal workers are well protected by short-term and long-term schemes, while the situation of informal workers is "very fragile" in terms of income," Prof. Dr. Giang Thanh Long, Senior Lecturer of the Faculty of Economics at the National University of Economics, pointed out.

He added that short-term benefits such as maternity, work accidents, and occupational diseases are not currently mentioned in the law. "I think it is necessary to introduce these policies gradually in the process of law reform, to make it more attractive for informal workers. Information on the level of contributions and benefits also needs to be made public to convince contributors," Long suggested.

Associate Professor Dr. Bui Thi An, former member of the Science, Technology, and Environment Committee of the 13th National Assembly (2011-2016 term), also emphasized the need to design more attractive insurance policies.

Associate Professor Dr. Nguyen Thanh Loi, Editor-in-Chief of Economic & Urban Newspaper, Head of the Organizing Committee of the Media Program "Silent Contributions in 2024" speaks at the seminar.

Speaking at the seminar, Associate Professor Dr. Nguyen Thanh Loi, Editor-in-Chief of Economic & Urban Newspaper, Head of the Organizing Committee of the Media Program "Silent Contributions in 2024", said that according to statistics from the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), Vietnam has a total of more than 33 million informal workers, of which only 0. 2% pay compulsory insurance, 1.9% pay voluntary social insurance, and the remaining 97.9% do not register, resulting in a large number of workers "falling through the safety net". This means that they are not fully protected by the Labor Code.

"Solutions and policy changes need to be made so that more workers in the informal sector can access the voluntary social insurance system and ensure social security policies when working in the informal sector. The recommendations in today's discussion are expected to contribute more voices in the process as the authorities finalize the draft amended social insurance law," Mr. Loi stated.  

 Ta Viet Anh, Chairman of the Board of the Fund for Supporting Social Security Programs and Projects in Vietnam. 

Ta Viet Anh, Chairman of the Board of the Fund for Supporting Social Security Programs and Projects in Vietnam, Deputy Head of the Organizing Committee of "Silent Contributions in 2024", said: "After 15 years of implementing the voluntary social insurance policy, the number of people enrolled in voluntary social insurance has reached 1.45 million people, but this number is still modest. The reason is that workers in the informal sector mainly work in the agricultural sector."

"The contents raised by the speakers, especially the recommendations to amend the Social Insurance Law in today's discussion, will contribute more voices for the authorities and National Assembly delegates to make a thorough decision before pushing the button to approve the draft Law on Social Insurance (Amended)," Viet Anh stressed.

 Delegates at the event.