Workshop with Social Security Departments on Challenges and Opportunities for Extending Social Security to the Private Sector in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

On 11 February 2024, the International Labour Organization (ILO), together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) co-hosted a workshop with representatives of social security offices to discuss legislation, policies and reforms needed to advance the extension of social security coverage to private sector workers in the KRI.

Upon the ratification of the ILO Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102) in March 2023, the Government of Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, has embarked on an important process of aligning its national standards on social security with international ones. In December 2023, the Federal Iraq enacted a new Social Security and Pension Law (No. 18 of 2023) that expanded social security coverage to all private sector workers, including in the informal economy, and introduced maternity, work injury and unemployment benefits. The Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) seeks to enact similar legislation to advance social security for private sector workers in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Following the institutional assessment conducted by the ILO to better understand the capacity to implement comprehensive social security reforms in the KRI as foreseen by the draft Pension and Social Security Law, the one-day workshop in Erbil was intended as an opportunity to discuss the institutional gaps and challenges, identify promising remedial measures and explore areas for further reform.

The workshop brought together more than 20 representatives of the KRG social security offices, from as far as the cities of Zakho and Kalar, and opened space to engaged in constructive discussions on the existing social security gaps and challenges at the central and regional levels. It also provided a unique opportunity to collectively brainstorm on more robust and rights-based approaches to implement the reforms on social security for private sector workers, including those in the informal economy, in the KRI, while ensuring financial sustainability of the system. Extending invitation to contribute insights and expertise to a wide range of stakeholders, the workshop was also a testament to collective efforts in shaping the future of social security in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The key recommendations that stemmed from the representatives of the KRG social security offices during the workshop included facilitating automation of social security processes in the KRI, supporting evidence generation, including on the financial sustainability of short-term benefits and pensions for private sector workers, strengthening capacities of management and technical specialists of Social Security Department in Governorates in a comprehensive and systematic manner, and building awareness and culture of social security among workers and employers in the private sector. The participants moreover acknowledged and reiterated that the technical assistance that the ILO provided to the KRG through the EU-funded Social Protection Programme for Iraq: “Leveraging Effective Response and Accelerating Reform” remained of utmost importance to progressively build social protection floor for all in Iraq.