Jose Carlos Maningat
Ecumenical Institute for Labour Education and Research, Inc.
Discussion Paper No. 1, December 2015
While the Philippines has a long history of social protection initiatives, majority of Filipino workers today remain to be in vulnerable positions in need of relief from impacts of low and flexible wages, temporary employment, and environmental degradation. Social insurance programmes, which are contributory in nature rather than wholly-financed by the government, mostly cater to formal sector workers.
The SSS, a government-owned and controlled corporation that manages the pension fund for private sector workers, is led by top guns from the corporate sector. Not surprisingly, it operates like a huge corporation investing reserve funds, which are workers’ contributions, in enterprises that are explicitly linked to the business interests of SSS commissioners. Ironically, the SSS is using social protection funds to help finance one of the biggest mining companies in the country, in a sector known for the vulnerabilities of its workers. Broadly speaking, the practice of investing SSS funds in equities is institutionalised and is guaranteed under the SSS Charter.
On the workers’ end, problems in accessing loans and benefits arise. There are accounts of irregular remittance of salary deductions for SSS contributions and questions on whether the company is really paying its counterpart of the SSS premium. In these scenarios, the company stands to benefit as it acquires additional funds to finance its operations in the short term. SSS oversight, regulation, and resolution on such anomalies have yet to be probed.
Currently, an alternative social protection model as proposed by workers’ organisations in the Philippines has yet to be fleshed out. Social protection as a universal right has yet to be identified as one of the key battle cries of the country’s organised labour movement. In particular, a campaign against the SSS practice of gambling workers’ funds in equities has yet to materialise. In terms of policy, no legislation seeking to amend the SSS Charter from the perspective of workers has been filed.
*This is the first of the Social Protection Discussion Paper Series of AMRC and the Asian Roundtable on Social Protection (AROSP). It is part of the AMRC-AROSP research project that aims to analyse the social protection systems in different Asian countries and understand the grassroots workers' demands on social protection.