Burma’s Social Security Enrollees to See Benefits Boosted by April

By San Yamin Aung 29 January 2014

RANGOON — Burmese workers registered under the country’s social security scheme will begin seeing the benefits of more generous social protections from April of this year, according to the program’s director general.

Yu Lwin Aung, who heads the national Social Security Board, said implementation of the revamped Social Security Law, which was passed by Parliament in 2012, would begin in April, though full realization of the legislation’s promised benefits would be rolled out gradually.

Under the 2012 Social Security Law, cash benefits for illness are set to rise from 50 percent of a worker’s salary to 60 percent, and maternity and confinement payouts will increase to 70 percent, from 66.67 percent currently. Money for funeral arrangements will be increased to one to five times a worker’s salary, from the flat-rate 40,000 kyats presently provided.

Funding of medical treatment for employment-related injuries will rise to 70 percent from 66.67 percent, and the program’s survivors’ benefit fund will entitle enrollees to anywhere from 30 to 80 times the deceased’s salary, depending on the length of time enrolled. The survivor’s benefit fund under the old law offered just 66.67 percent of salary in total payout.

Retirement benefits under the new scheme will also see a boost.

“I hope the new law can raise public reliance upon the social security system by providing benefits that are commensurate with the realities, and so that the lives of workers will be more secure,” he said.

Of the country’s total population, only about 1 percent—some 600,000 workers—are registered under the social security system, Yu Lwin Aung said, blaming the low proportion of enrollees on the scant benefits provided under the previous social security framework, laid out in a law passed in 1954.

Ye Naing Win, a labor representative from the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security’s Arbitration Council, said there were many provisions prescribed in the Social Security Law of 1954 that were not currently being honored because funding for the scheme fell short of what was required to pay out enrollees in full.

He said the medical benefits of the new Social Security Law would be more far-reaching and convenient because insured workers would be eligible for treatment at private hospitals partnered with the social security system, in addition to the mere three “workers hospitals” that currently exist nationwide.

“It will be difficult to apply all [benefits provisions] at the same time in April because there is not enough funding for all workers in the country,” Ye Naing Win said, adding that the new benefits slated for April, including major social safety net protections such as work injury-related compensation, and payments for maternity and sick leave, meant the phased roll-out was “not so bad.”

“We have been issuing ‘smart’ social security registration cards to insured workers since July 2013 to apply to the new social security law,” which he said would help to better compile long-term data on the beneficiaries of a program that is expected to grow. “We have already issued them to around 300,000 workers.”