Social security for migrant workers in Eurasia
Coverage extension is not only one of the greatest challenges for social security today, but also one of its most important goals. The Eurasia region is one in which there is a need for improved social protection, in particular for migrant workers. Recognizing this, since 2005, ISSA member organizations have been focusing on administrative solutions for the enhancement of social security coverage for migrant workers in Eurasia.
The disintegration of the USSR in 1991 coupled with globalization has resulted in increased migration in the Eurasia region, bringing with it a host of issues, not least of which is how to prevent inadequate social security coverage for migrant workers. For the individual, movement between countries can mean the loss of social security coverage, delays in accessing social security, denied benefits, or undervalued or unrecognized contributions.
Social security administrations also face challenges as a result of worker mobility. The challenges include the ability to maintain coverage for migrant workers, and register and protect migrant workers' contributions, in both the home country and country of work.
Migrants in Eurasia
In Eurasia, which covers essentially the former Soviet Union countries, almost 10 per cent of the population – 24 million people – is foreign born. Migrant workers make up an even higher percentage of the workforce. In Kazakhstan alone, nearly 21 per cent of the population is foreign born. In all countries that make up Eurasia, more than 60 per cent of the foreign-born migrant population is in the 20-64 working age, except Armenia (54 per cent); and the Russian Federation (78 per cent).
After 1991, social security protection was one of the most significant challenges facing the new governments, due in part to the widespread informal sector and absence of mechanism to address social protection. Despite significant migration into and within the Eurasian region, legal and administrative mechanisms are not sufficient to ensure adequate social protection of migrant workers. It is imperative that new mechanisms be put in place that provide for migrant workers full social security scheme participation, contribution portability, and access to retirement benefits.
The ISSA began studying the issue in 2005, and as of 2011 embarked on a project which would provide guidance to social security administrators in Eurasia who seek to enhance coverage for migrant workers. The ISSA believes enhanced social protection for migrants can result in sustainable economic growth and social cohesion, and can provide incentives for unregistered migrants to seek formal work.