The workplace injury compensation system in Pakistan is governed by each provincial government under their respective Employees Social Security Act, which exists in only three of the four provinces. The system is challenged by a number of limitations in terms of coverage, quality, adequacy and alignment with international standards, such as the Employment Injury Benefits Convention, 1964 (No. 121). Furthermore, it covers only a fraction of formal economy workers. The employee’s social security institutions (ESSI) of Pakistan provide work injury insurance under some of the most advanced legislation in Asia and conform to the minimum requirements of the Convention. Nevertheless, ESSIs still face numerous challenges in promoting full compliance to cover all workers in all economic sectors, deliver quality and timely health benefits and provide adequate cash benefits to replace lost income. The main barriers are rooted in the limited resources available to invest in human and information technology capacity and good governance management systems for ESSIs.
Towards a Solution
The project focused on strengthening the Pakistani compensation system for workplace injury through exchanges with Malaysia and Thailand. It contributed to building capacities among these countries on social security systems, as well as non-work-related injury and death. In this regard, South-South cooperation with Malaysia was useful in sharing experiences and enhancing peer learning on social security matters.
Against this backdrop, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Country Office in Islamabad hosted a consultation on knowledge-sharing and insights into developing a road map to support provincial reforms in ESSIs in Pakistan, which are responsible for work injury insurance. On 16 July 2018, the heads of the four ESSIs met to review their existing contribution collection and registration systems, examine the overall social security and welfare schemes and address the needs of formal and informal sector workers. They shared some of their practical experiences and challenges facing governance and implementation. They also identified areas to be included in a road map for upgrading ESSIs. The consultation also involved the Departments of Labour, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan, the Pakistan Workers’ Federation and technical experts. Following this consultation, a peer-learning South-South study trip to visit social security institutions in Malaysia and Thailand took place in September 2018, with further exchanges of knowledge and good practices to address the capacity gaps in ESSIs in Pakistan.
The results of this project provided a strong and sustainable foundation for effective employment injury compensation for all workers, including small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and self-employed workers, who are not currently covered. Limits in sustainability depend largely on the capacity of national institutions to take over the oversight and implementation of social security benefits for all workers, based on the good practices of the two countries. ILO facilitated continued exchanges among the countries, brought in resource persons from Malaysia and Thailand and established networks such as WhatsApp groups.
Through South-South and triangular cooperation, the project developed the capacity of existing institutions responsible for employment injury insurance. It improved governance, computerized management systems, expanded coverage and improved the delivery of benefits, which ultimately leads to a sustainable social security system. Knowledge and organizational skills among social security institutions in Pakistan were strengthened through the study visits to Malaysia and Thailand and the training workshops provided by the International Training Centre of ILO in Turin. Knowledge products such as case studies and information, education and communication materials were developed for use by ESSIs in Pakistan to promote the adoption of good practices.
The scheme was supplemented by a holistic network of services, including occupational safety and health promotion programmes and healthy lifestyle campaigns, as well as rehabilitation centres that prevent accidents and facilitate the reintegration of injured workers to the workforce. In 2017, the Malaysian social security system provided coverage to self-employed taxi drivers. It also provides protection to self-employed insured persons, including for illnesses and accidents during work-related activities.
Continued peer learning between Thailand, Malaysia and Pakistan facilitates sustainable changes in the social security systems of the three countries. It also benefits other South Asian countries, through South-South exchanges.
The Thailand Social Security Office covers the smallest businesses, even those with only one employee. Despite minor practical implementation issues, there was much to learn about gradually extending coverage to these businesses. Thailand also has a sophisticated system of contribution rates for different industries and a merit rating system to adjust contribution rates based on accident rates. The Government of Pakistan shared the lessons it had learned on improving social security with Myanmar.