Opening address at the ASEAN experts meeting on unemployment insurance

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the ASEAN experts meeting on unemployment insurance, Makati City, Philippines, 19 November 2012

Statement | Makati City, Philippines | 19 November 2012
  • Secretary Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment,
  • ASEAN Secretariat Representative,
  • Mr Hirata, Labour Attache of the Government of Japan
  • Distinguished resource persons and constituents from Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (good morning to all of you)!

It’s an honour for me to be among the first to welcome you all to Manila for the ASEAN experts meeting on unemployment insurance.

Social security is recognized as a basic human right. However, in many countries, social security remains a dream for the majority of the people, especially the poor.

Various contingencies such as sickness, unemployment, old age, work injury, family responsibilities, maternity, invalidity or death of a breadwinner often lead to reduced or loss of income due to lack of social security which in turn forces families into poverty and forces family members into vulnerable forms of employment. As we have seen, this can lead to incidents of child labour and other problems.

The global economic crisis had a significant impact on efforts to reduce poverty and vulnerable employment as spelled out on the MDGs. Many people were forced to create or accept whatever work is available just so they and their families can survive another day.

Without sustainable, inclusive growth as well as adequate social security and protection, the vulnerable have to face increased poverty and social hardship. Thus, social security measures are crucial to post-recovery initiatives and efforts to achieve sustainable, inclusive and greener growth.

ILO Convention 102 on Minimum Entitlements to Social Security and the recently adopted Recommendation on Social Protection Floor PR No. 14A - Text of the Recommendation concerning national floors of social protection provide the principles that can guide countries in ensuring minimum social protection.

These include universality and non-discrimination, adequacy and sustainability, progressiveness, fair balance of interest, collective financing, and state responsibility.

The Social Protection Floor provides the four guarantees:

1. affordable health care, including maternal care;
2. children’s access to nutrition, education and care;
3. working age population’s access to basic income security;
4. old age residents receive pension and transfers in kind.

Unemployment insurance is one of the possible options to achieve the third guarantee, which aims to provide income security to those who have lost their job.

Here in the Philippines, there is no law or institution dealing with unemployment insurance or protection. However, the DOLE under Secretary Baldoz is working on social protection and unemployment insurance has been identified as a priority under the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan 2011-2016 to achieve sustainable, inclusive and greener growth through decent and productive work.

Studies were conducted to assess the feasibility of the scheme in the Philippines. In principle, there is now a consensus on the importance of introducing unemployment insurance in the country.

Among the ASEAN member States, only two countries have set up an unemployment insurance scheme - Thailand in 2004 and Viet Nam in 2009.

The ILO believes that it is important for each country to define its own path towards ensuring social protection floor depending on its national definitions, demographics and level of development.

The unemployment insurance is a scheme that can facilitate the achievement of the social protection floor for the working age population and the introduction of such scheme can be done progressively, guided by International Labour Standards.

The Philippines can learn from several years of implementation of Thailand’s and Vietnam’s unemployment insurance schemes. Malaysia is also exploring different modalities to introduce unemployment insurance.

Since 2011, the ASEAN, and in particular Viet Nam, has received ILO technical support to promote and build unemployment insurance and employment services, through the ILO/Japan Multi-bilateral programme.

Today’s roundtable discussion is part of a series to build the capacity and to provide an opportunity to share experiences and activities of the ILO/Japan-ASEAN project on Promoting and Building Unemployment Insurance and Employment Services in ASEAN.

The roundtable discussion aims to raise awareness on ILO’s principles and concepts related to unemployment protection; explore different modalities of unemployment or employment insurance applied in countries worldwide; share experiences and lessons learnt from ASEAN countries concerning the design process, consensus building for the introduction of unemployment benefits and necessary adjustments of the unemployment insurance over time; as well as understanding the different steps of the design process and the importance of adopting an integrated approach between unemployment insurance and employment support policies.

At the end of the roundtable discussion, we expect to have a way forward to introduce unemployment benefits in the Philippines as well as to effectively share knowledge and expertise on unemployment protection policies among ASEAN countries.

There will also be a report on ASEAN experiences on the design and implementation of unemployment protection measures, which I hope you will find useful to address the lack of social security and employment support measures.

I hope this roundtable discussion will open more opportunities for dialogue and cooperation on unemployment insurance schemes and employment services among the ASEAN network, which in the end will contribute to achieving universal coverage.

On behalf of the ILO team in Manila, again, let me welcome you all to Manila and wish you a successful and productive discussion.

Thank you and Mabuhay!