Iraq invests in building a social security system that protects workers

Iraq’s parliament votes for new social security law, introducing far-reaching reforms to the social security system for private-sector workers.

News | 17 May 2023
© Iraqi Council of Representatives
Baghdad, Iraq (ILO News) The Council of Representatives in Federal Iraq voted on Wednesday (May 17) to adopt the new Social Security Law for Private Sector Workers, which introduces far-reaching reforms to the social security system for private-sector workers.

The new law, which will replace Law No. 39 on Pension and Social Security for Private-Sector Workers of 1979, brings the social security system for private sector workers in closer alignment with ILO Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102), which was officially ratified by the Government of Iraq in March 2023. 

The law significantly expands the legal coverage of the social security system, covering all workers including informal workers, the self-employed and contributing family workers. It also expands the range of entitlements to include maternity and unemployment benefits for the first time. The law will also provide health insurance obtained from public, cooperative, and private providers.

A statement issued by the Labour and Civil Society Organizations Committee highlighted the law was “among the priority draft laws in the government programme, in response to the developments of the current situation as well as the future, and in line with the International Labour Organization’s appeal to expand coverage to the private sector”.

ILO meeting with Labour and Civil Society Organizations Committee earlier in May
Under the European Union funded programme to reform social protection, and in line with the priorities of the Decent Work Country Programme for Iraq, the ILO has been working with its tripartite constituents - government, employer, and worker representatives - and the parliamentary committee in the review of the social security law. This has included bringing together legal as well as actuarial experts to assess the comprehensiveness, coherence, sustainability and alignment of the social security law.

The ILO has also been supporting the Government and tripartite partners to strengthen their capacity to implement the new provisions of the law and strengthen the efficiency in the delivery of social security and related employment services.

“The ILO welcomes the adoption of the new law, which is a key milestone in expanding the scope of support provided to workers by covering a wider range of risks,” said ILO Coordinator in Iraq Maha Kattaa. “For example, unemployment benefits are crucial to prevent workers who become unemployed from falling into poverty, providing them with support while they seek new employment opportunities. Similarly, the introduction of maternity benefits will ensure women are supported before, during and after childbirth, thus potentially improving health outcomes.”

“We look forward to strengthening collaboration with all parties to ensure the effective implementation of the law, and to bring millions of workers in the private sector under the umbrella of social security,” added Kattaa.

Priority now will be placed on the Department of Social Security under the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to upgrade its procedures and systems to efficiently administer the reforms introduced under the law, with the support of the ILO. 

The ILO and partners will also embark on an awareness raising campaign for workers and employers on their rights and responsibilities under the social security law, in efforts to support the expansion of coverage to more workers.