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Migrant workers urge better social security cover

Bangkok Post - 17 December 2012. Labour rights activists will take advantage of International Migrants Day tomorrow to lobby the government to improve social welfare benefits for migrant workers.
Migrant workers urge better social security cover

Migrant workers rally at the Democracy Monument yesterday to demand better social security coverage, and permission for those whose nationality has not been verified to carry on working in Thailand without being repatriated. PATTARACHAI PREECHAPANICH

Labour rights activists will take advantage of International Migrants Day tomorrow to lobby the government to improve social welfare benefits for migrant workers.

The social security system has been in place for more than 20 years and is "not primarily designed for migrant workers", Lae Dilokwitthayarat, an economics lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said.

He said authorities need to amend legal procedures to allow migrants to gain access to welfare benefits, including healthcare, more easily.

"These workers help build the Thai economy.

"If they are not well protected, the economy will be damaged," he said.

Mr Lae was speaking yesterday at a seminar on migrant workers' rights to mark tomorrow's UN-sponsored migrants day, which aims to raise awareness of discrimination against trans-national labourers.

Labour activists yesterday sent a petition letter to Anusorn Kraiwatnuson, assistant to Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap, asking the ministry to help improve workers' access to social welfare.

Aung, a 30-year-old Myanmar worker in Samut Prakan province, has already gone through a required background check and been listed as a legal worker. However, he told the Bangkok Post he has still not received access to social security benefits. "There are some glitches in my work permit," Aung said.

Without the document, he cannot apply for a social security number. He must wait for the signature of a labour official before he can apply.

Even if migrant workers do manage to gain access to social security benefits, they will still receive fewer benefits than Thai workers under current regulations, despite the fact they contribute the same amount to the social security fund, Sathian Thanphrom, of the Foundation for Aids Rights, said.

Konchai Kaeomahawong, director of the Employers Confederation of Thailand, said change would not happen overnight.

Employers are willing to abide by any new laws, he said.

However, this was a big issue that requires steps to build understanding among employers that might be adversely affected by any changes.

Arak Phrommi, deputy secretary-general of the Social Security Office, said his office was ready to discuss ideas on how to improve social security.

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/326492/migrant-workers-urge-better-social-security-cover

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