Social security

A step for Cambodia towards universal health care

A new social security scheme extending benefits to the self-employed and dependents is an important step towards universal health care in Cambodia explains Oktavianto Pasaribu, Officer-in-Charge/Deputy Director ILO Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Comment | 08 December 2023
Expansion of social security coverage to more people in Cambodia. © Shutterstock
The International Labour Organization (ILO) applauds the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) for the successful launch of the voluntary social security scheme on healthcare. This achievement marks the first step towards a comprehensive system aimed at providing social security to all Cambodian citizens by extending these benefits to the self-employed and the dependents of all NSSF members. The ILO congratulates the RGC and NSSF on this significant milestone.

The new social security scheme represents a stepping stone in closing the gaps in population coverage and services provided. By extending the right to access social health protection to hundreds of thousands of previously uncovered workers and family members, Cambodia has taken a commendable stride towards a more inclusive society. Nonetheless, we recognize that this is just the beginning, and that the work of implementing the scheme and realizing Cambodians’ rights to social protection starts now. This includes further analysis and adjustments which will be vital to ensure the scheme's success.

The expansion of this social security coverage is also in line with the commitment of the RCG to the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions launched in September 2021 by the UN Secretary-General. The aim is to direct investments to help create at least 400 million decent jobs worldwide and to extend social protection coverage to the over 4 billion people currently excluded.

Oktavianto Pasaribu, Officer-in-Charge/Deputy Director ILO Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic. © ILO
The ILO has been actively supporting the Royal Government in the expansion of social protection coverage through the Advancing Social Protection (ASP) Project funded by the European Union (EU). The EU-ASP Project has undertaken a range of activities aimed at highlighting the impacts and potential of social protection and formalization for the Cambodian economy, poverty reduction, and productivity gains. This support is driven by our commitment to working alongside the government as well as employers and workers representatives to ensure the success and sustainability of the social security scheme. We would like to thank these institutions and their leaders for this achievement.

As a trusted partner in social security development the ILO still has some concerns that the voluntary nature of the scheme may potentially impact its financial sustainability. A mandatory approach would achieve higher population coverage, better financial stability, and greater equity among contributors. Nonetheless, we are committed to supporting the current scheme design and advocating for continuous improvement and will work closely with the RGC to further enhance the scheme's effectiveness and ensure its long-term sustainability. We look forward to the first steps of the implementation process and to witness the expansion of social security coverage in Cambodia.

We urge all self-employed individuals in Cambodia to seize this new opportunity and register with the voluntary social security scheme. All NSSF members can also now register their dependents, insuring their families against sudden and catastrophic health expenditures. By doing so, they will gain access to vital social security benefits. This is a chance to protect both themselves and their loved ones, ensuring a more secure future for all. Registering today will help build a more secure and inclusive Cambodia for all.

The launch of the voluntary social security scheme is a significant achievement for Cambodia in its quest towards achieving Universal Health Care. We congratulate the RGC and NSSF once again for their dedication to expanding social protection.

The expansion of this social security coverage is also in line with the commitment of the Royal Government of Cambodia to the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions launched in September 2021 by the UN Secretary-General. The aim is to direct investments to help create at least 400 million decent jobs worldwide and to extend social protection coverage to the over 4 billion people currently excluded.