‘OFW employers should pay share in SSS contributions’
MANILA—Employers of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should pay their share in their worker’s compulsory Social Security System (SSS) monthly contributions, according to the proposed new SSS Law.
The proposed Social Security Act of 2018, which had been approved by both houses of Congress and needs only the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte to become law, said the Philippine government should negotiate bilateral agreements with host countries to ensure that OFW employers should also pay monthly SSS contributions.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)…are mandated to negotiate bilateral labor agreements with the OFWs’ host countries to ensure that the employers of land-based OFWs, similar to the principals of sea-based OFWs, pay the required SSS contributions,” the proposed law said.
“The DFA, the DOLE and the SSS shall ensure compulsory coverage of OFWs through bilateral social security and labor agreements and other measures for enforcement,” it added.
The Philippines, thru the SSS as lead negotiator, had already forged into 13 bilateral social security agreements with Austria, UK and Northern Ireland, Spain, France, Canada, Quebec, Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Germany and Japan.
“We will do our best,” said Labor Attache Jalilo Dela Torre when asked about the possibility of Hong Kong and Manila signing such an agreement.
However, migrant rights groups fear that OFWs could end up shouldering all of their SSS fees if their employers refuse to pay or if the host government drag its feet on signing bilateral labor agreements.
The activists noted that OFWs would be required to pay three months’ worth of contributions before they are allowed to go abroad.
They also said that, under the proposed law, OFWs should contribute an equivalent of 12 percent of their salary starting next year and this would go up to 15 percent by 2025.
“We are not against OFWs paying SSS contributions but it should not be mandatory. The choice should be left to the worker,” said Dolores Balladares, chair of the United Filipino in Hong Kong (UNIFIL), which held a protest action at the Philippine Consulate General on October 18 against mandatory SSS contributions and mandatory insurance for returning OFWs.
“In the case that host countries refuse to get the compliance of foreign employers on this SSS scheme, OFWs themselves will be forced to fully pay for the entire monthly contribution rate,” said Migrante International spokesperson Arman Hernando.
“That is painful considering that many OFWs are enslaved through unpaid work besides suffering from other contract violations,” he added.
Hernando likewise warned that this could incite antagonism from foreign employers against OFWs for just recently, POEA issued a resolution requiring employers to pay for the premium for the insurance coverage of returning OFWs.
The SSS said OFWs could pay a minimum of P980, but this would be below the ideal monthly contribution of P1,760.
Paying P1,760 a month for least 10 years will be entitled to a wide range of SSS benefits and privileges, said SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emmanuel F. Dooc
Dooc said these benefits include: basic monthly pension amounting to at least P6,400 upon retirement, disability or death, with an additional monthly benefit of P1,000; other benefits for pensioners like 13th month pension, dependents pension, and supplemental monthly allowance of P500 for disability pensioners; short-term benefits in the form of cash allowances for sickness (up to P57,600 per year; and maternity for female members (up to P32,000 for normal delivery/miscarriage and P41,600 for caesarian delivery); funeral grant amounting to at least P20,000; salary loan of up to P32,000, and direct housing loan of up to P2-million.
In the event of death, 100 percent of their pension will be transferred to their spouse and dependent children as primary beneficiaries. The least that they can get if unable to complete 10 years of contributions upon retirement is a refund of all their contributions plus interest.
A provident fund scheme, called the SSS Flexi-fund, is also being offered exclusively to OFWs to allow them to set aside an additional portion of their earnings abroad and maximize their returns.
“SSS contributions are OFWs’ long-term savings for the future, especially when they eventually decide to return home and stay for good to retire,” Dooc said.
A proposed bill whichs amend
-run Social Security System (SSS) is expected to work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in ensuring the compulsory social security coverage of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) under the proposed Senate Bill that will amend the Social Security Law with Senator Richard Gordon as principal author.
said that one of the proposed measures under Senate Bill 1753, which seeks to amend the 21-year old charter of the pension fund, is the mandatory coverage of OFWs over the world to protect them from hazards of contingencies.
“Based on latest statistics, there are more than two million OFWs around the world but only more than 583,000 are actively paying their SSS monthly contributions. With the help of Sen. Richard Gordon, our SS champion in the Senate, our goal is to make sure that all Filipinos in and out of the country are protected under the SSS,” Dooc said.
“And we are also aware that this goal of ours is not as simple as it seems. This means tremendous work for us and partner agencies like DFA and DOLE, which oversee OFWs. We will be working closely with them to deliver the SSS mandate and to make sure that we will make the hopefully soon-to-be-law implemented,” Dooc added.
Senator Gordon ensured other lawmakers during the interpellation on the Senate floor that the mandatory coverage of OFWs will be properly implemented by the SSS as they work hand-in-hand with other government agencies.
Gordon, together with officials of the pension fund, said one of the ways to implement this is through strengthened bilateral agreements with different countries in the world.
Gordon deemed the proposed measure a landmark bill as it will enable the SSS to fulfill its objective of universal coverage.
“It is our constitutional duty to afford full protection to labor, whether local or overseas, and fundamental to this is the provision of social security protection to all Filipinos, including OFWs. It is likewise provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that everyone has the right to social security,” the senator said.
Dooc, meanwhile, said that the main purpose is to provide OFWs the mechanism to save in order to secure their retirement through entitlement to lifetime SSS pension benefits, the value of which is at least P5.00 per peso amount of what they contributed.
Senator Gordon stressed that every Filipino worker during his productive years should follow a sure-fire formula to become self-reliant and financially independent: “WORK, SAVE, INVEST, PROSPER.”