Social Insecurity for Migrants Legally in Thailand

Since November 2010, the Social Security Office of Thailand has promised social security benefits to migrants holding temporary passports. This promise became policy under the Cabinet Resolution of January 15th 2013.  Migrants who persevered through all the steps and all the fees to regularize themselves believed that it would eventually be worth all the effort.  They were led to believe that the temporary passport would be their gateway to 300 baht a day wage, access to all seven benefits of social security and to the Workmen’s Compensation Fund. But they have been deceived.

Not only is the 300 baht minimum wage not enforced for migrants but now the number of benefits they can receive after contributing to the social security fund is diminishing before their eyes.

On 28th May 2013, Mr Somkiat Chawatsriwong, Permanent Secretary to Ministry of Labour, announced that after studying ILO, he believed that a separate social security system with fewer benefits should be set up for migrant workers.  Women in particular were to be targeted for restricted rights. While women would still be able to claim the costs of birthing, they would not receive benefits for maternity leave or child allowance. Mr Somkiat said that migrants should know the importance of birth control so that they will not settle in Thailand, they should know that they are only coming to Thailand to work for a period. Migrants, he said were not eligible for unemployment benefits because according to the immigration law they are not allowed to in the country for longer than 7 days if they are not working. He also proposed giving a lump sum instead of monthly pensions. (TNA News, 28th May, 2013)

MAP Foundation, a migrant workers support group, is dismayed that a two tiered social security system, which would effectively institutionalize the second class status of migrant workers in Thailand is being proposed. According to the National News Bureau of Thailand, 29th July 2013, the amendment to the Social Security Act 2533 excludes migrants from three of the seven benefits, namely the right to birthing costs, child allowance and unemployment benefits. The proposed amendments are being justified on the basis that migrants are not welcome to settle in Thailand. They are based on discriminatory practices and will create tensions and hostility between migrant and host communities. They also clearly violate Thailand’s obligations to CEDAW. Article 11(2) specifies that in order to prevent discrimination on the grounds of marriage or maternity, States must “... introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances.”[1]  CEDAW Article 11(2)(c) requires State parties to promote the establishment and development of a network of child-care

facilities. In addition, under CEDAW a state is legally obliged to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women and advance gender equality, articles 2 – 5 are non-negotiable, and the state must at all costs avoid discrimination by its own action. The denial of child care and maternity benefits clearly violates Thailand’s obligations to CEDAW and the two tier social security system will create not eliminate discrimination.

The Labour Unions  and workers groups of Thailand had proposed an alternative draft of the Social Security reform bill.  Their proposal extends the definition of worker to include domestic workers, home workers and all temporary workers and calls on the government to match informal workers contribution to the social security fund. The Labour Unions also emphasized the need to reform the social security office’s structure and governance. This has been a major cause for concern for all who contribute to the fund but do not have confidence that they will receive their benefits in the future if the office is not transparent in its management of the funds. Despite its progressive and comprehensive nature, the proposed amendments by the Labour Unions were rejected by Parliament.  We can only hope that the Parliament will also reject any two tiered, discriminatory social security system which does not afford migrants all their benefits and equal rights.

 


[1] CEDAW, Article 11, Paragraph 2a and 2b.