Social Security for Migrant Workers

Social Security is an important factor for the well-being of workers, their families and their community. As a member of the society, every person in the society has the right to social security. Social Security is a basic human right and a fundamental means for the creation of social bond, contributing to social peace and social involvement. Social Security protects the worker and his family thus providing health care and financial security to the family. They plan social Security schemes to guarantee for the family for a long-time period when the earning member retires, dies or suffer from injury. Thus, social security acts as a facilitator for the people, thus it allows people to plan for their future through insurance and security. Each year around 3 million people migrate in search of jobs. By working for the host country, they contribute fully and improve the economy of the host country but the migrant people are the most excluded from receiving basic social protection instruments and schemes, particularly undocumented migrant workers. People migrate from one place to another for work and better livelihood but, they lose social security benefits in their country because of their absence and; they encounter restrictive conditions under the social security system of the host country.

Migrant Worker

The “United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families” defines a migrant worker as a person who is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national. Migrant workers usually don’t have the intention to stay permanently in the country or region in which they work. They move to another place for providing their service on a temporary or usually seasonal for a better salary than the home country. Migrant workers are fundamentally alien to the community in which they work. As a result, migrant workers will be facing difficulties to access social service and local health care.

Recommended provisions for the social security rights of Migrant workers

The Indian Labour Organisation (ILO) have made some key principles and recommendations for protecting social security rights of Migrant Workers. The Key Principles are as follows;

  1. Equal treatment as the citizen of the host country and non-discrimination including equal treatment in the field of social security between citizen and non-citizen.
  2. Maintenance of acquired rights
  3. Maintenance of rights in the course of acquisition
  4. Payment of benefits to beneficiaries residing abroad

Measures to protect Migrant Worker Social Security Rights

Migrant workers are people who go to a different place for a job or they are sent by the company where they work as an employee. They are mostly exempted from social security rights. In this way, they lose the benefit of social security rights and are not treated equally. The various number of measures should be taken for migrant workers by both the home country and host country.

Naturally, the host country should take the most progressive measures for protecting social security rights for the workers as a person of a different country is coming to their country to work which ultimately benefits the host country. They should be treated equally like their citizen of their country. For the benefit for people, the national legislation could provide equality of treatment between citizens and non-citizens, not only for social security coverage but also for the payment of benefits abroad. In such type of benefits, it will also protect the family members left in the home country and when migrants return home, they can ensure the export of benefits from the host country.

A labour sending country faces difficult while sending their workers to foreign countries for work due to several restrictions to increase the enforcement of the national legislation beyond its territory. Meanwhile, the labour receiving countries are not in a position to provide them or willing to negotiate for a social security agreement. The host country usually imagines that they should provide at least basic protection for the people working abroad.

Social Security Agreement

Many people in India migrate to another country in search of jobs. It is their wish to migrate to another country for their job but as a citizen of our country, it is the duty of Government of India to safeguard the interest of Indian workers deputed to foreign countries by their respective employers, thus the Government of India has signed Social Security Agreement (SSA) with 17 countries so that the mandatory social security contributions in those countries are exempted for the Indian Migrant Workers.

The Indian Labour Organisation (ILO) defines Social Security as all measures providing benefits for the people whether in cash, health, inter alia, to secure protection from:

  • Unaffordable access or lack of access to health care
  • Insufficient family support, especially for children and adult dependants
  • Insufficient income due to often sickness, maternity, disability, injure caused during employment, or old-age
  • General poverty and social exclusion

The first comprehensive international standards for social security systems were established by Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952. This convention found 9 branches of social security: Sickness benefits, Medical care, family benefits, disability benefits, maternity benefits, survivor benefits, old age benefits, unemployment benefits and employment injury benefits.

There are several possible types of schemes within each brand of security differentiated by their financing method. The types of social security schemes are: universal coverage, social insurance, provident funds, employer liability, individual private accounts, and social assistance.

  1. Universal Coverage – Refers to schemes that are financed from the government revenues and it is applied to the entire population residing in that country. Cash benefits under universal coverage schemes are usually in flat-rate amounts.
  2. Social Insurance –It is the most prevalent form of social security and it includes employment-related schemes that are financed and publicly administered by employers or workers. Depending on the legislation establishing a scheme, additional income will be received by the workers from the investment of the scheme’s reserve funds and government subsidies. The worker’s previous earnings are used for determining how much cash benefits a worker will get under the social insurance programme.
  3. Provident Funds –Provident funds are mandatory collective schemes and it is publicly administrated. These are financially contributed by the workers and employers. The contribution made by or behalf of the worker or employer will be credited to the member’s account. When a member reaches retirement age, he or she can withdraw the part or all of the money that is available in his or her account. However, it is not necessary to withdraw the money during retirement. The person can withdraw money before retirement under prescribed circumstances such as purchasing a home.
  4. Employer Liability –When some specific situation occurs to any employee or worker, every employer has to provide benefits or services.
  5. Individual Private Accounts – It is retirement saving schemes and it is pretty similar to provident funds. In provident funds, system schemes are administrated by the public but over here it is administrated privately, subject to regulation and supervision by public agencies and a member has his own choice to invest the fund from his/her account in the company. The funds should provide some form of periodic benefit when the worker retires.
  6. Social Assistance – Social Assistance are those benefits which entitlement is based on the level of a recipient’s income. It is usually provided to the family.

A Social Security Agreement is a bilateral instrument to protect the social security for the employees posted in another country. Indian employees who are posted in Foreign countries for an assignment by their Indian employerswill be making social security contribution in India as per Indian law without terminating their contract of employment. The employee may also be required to make social security contribution under the host country’s laws. Normally, these employees do not receive any benefit from such contributions in the host country on account of restrictions on withdrawal and stipulations about the duration of stay. SSA is planned to provide for avoidance of double coverage. Ordinarily, an SSA covers three important provisions:

  1. Detachment –Indian employees sent to SSA countries by their employer for assignments are exempted from contributing to their Social Security System, provided that they are contributing to the social security system with the home country.This exemption is available only for a specifiedperiod as prescribed in the agreement.
  2. Totalisation of Benefits –The eligibility for benefits is determined by the period of service portrayed by an employee in the host country, however, this is only payable only for the period of service on pro-rata basis.
  3. Portability of Pension – An employee who works in a foreign country, contributes for the social security for the host country, will be determined to receive pension benefits to their home country on competition of their assignment or retirement.


From the above discussion, we can come to the conclusion that every country should provide social security for migrant workers. Social Security is a basic need for every human being irrespective whether they are citizen of the country or not. The benefits of Social Security should be provided to migrant workers to as they are contributing for the host country. Social Security Agreement should be made with more countries for the benefit of workers, so that workers can go and enjoy the benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Why do Migrant workers don’t get social security?
  2. What is Social Security Agreement?
  3. What are the different types of Social Security Schemes?
  4. What are the different branches of Social Security?
  5. What are the provisions covered by the Social Security Agreement?



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