Health and Social Protection of the Informal Sector; DOC JIMMY SAYS

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr. Jaime Z. Galvez Tan

Market vendors, street hawkers, tricycle drivers, construction workers, home-based industry workers, farmers, fisherfolks, carpenters, plumbers, beauticians, manicurists, massage therapists: these are the workers that constitute 70 percent of the labor force. They are called the informal sector or workers of the informal economy. They continue to work everyday and enjoy no holiday.

However, a positive development occurred last Nov. 2002. The Philippine government, through the National Statistical Coordination Board, recognized the informal sector or workers of the informal economy by agreeing on an official definition. They will no longer be invisible in official government statistics but will now be counted starting with national surveys in 2004. While their invisibility and non-recognition are on the way of being solved, issues on health and social protection are still elusive. While existing laws give health and social protection to the formally employed, majority of the informal sector workers do not benefit from any social security, social health insurance, occupational health and safety regulations, access to productive resources like credit, capital, markets and training; and legal services.

Last April 23-25, the International Labor Organization and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited me to Turin, Italy to share during The International Conference on Social Protection in Developing Countries the Philippine experience in bringing health and social protection to the informal sector. My topic centered on the results of the series of monthly dialogues and workshops among the representatives of the informal sector, national government agencies, local governments of Metro Manila, non-government agencies and the private business sector. These were held last 2002 under the sponsorship of the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Interior and Local Government, Technical Education and Services Development Authority, Metro Manila Development Authority and the United Nations Development Program and the International Labor Organization.

Let us tackle the various issues that confront the informal sector today.

Lack of access to social security. The Social Security System (SSS) ensures that the formally employed are enrolled as its members. The revised charter of the SSS has also allowed workers of the informal sector to enroll individually or as a member of an organization or cooperative. However, this latter provision has not yet been implemented by SSS. With regards the individual enrollment of the informal sector, only a small proportion has been reached. There are two major reasons for this low enrollment. …