SSS lauds Ph-SoKor agreement on social security

The state-run Social Security System (SSS) on Thursday said more than 60,000 Filipinos in South Korea will soon enjoy the benefits of social security coverage and protection both from their host and mother countries following the signing of the bilateral agreement between the two countries last 25 November 2019.

During the sidelines of President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to South Korea for the ASEAN – Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit, five agreements were signed including the Social Security Agreement (SSA) that will address social security coverage of Filipinos in South Korea and Koreans in the Philippines.

“After almost 15 years, we are very glad that we have finally secured an agreement with South Korea that will ensure the protection of social security rights for the benefit and welfare of the respective nationals of both countries,” SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Aurora C. Ignacio said.

“The long wait is over, and we are now confident that we are nearing our goal to protect all Filipino workers inside and outside the Philippines from the hazards of the sudden loss of income due to unexpected contingencies,” Ignacio added Signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin and Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, the renegotiated SSA addressed the concerns of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Korea wherein their social security coverage will remain under Korea’s National Pension Service (NPS) and there will be no transfer of contributions from the NPS to the SSS, among others.

The renegotiated agreement also provides an option for OFWs to refund their NPS contributions at the end of their overseas employment contract under the same conditions given to Korean nationals.

“We listened to the calls of our OFWs before, that’s why this is allowed even if it is believed that the other option of leaving behind their contributions under the National Pension Act of Korea for future benefit entitlement is more beneficial. We want our OFWs to understand that we are very much willing to listen to their concerns and if we could make ways to meet their demands, we’ll do it. In the end, it is really their welfare that we care much about,” Ignacio said.

OFWs who will opt for the lump-sum refund are encouraged to become active SSS members and pay their contributions on a voluntary basis to ensure their eligibility for SSS pension benefits in the future.

Similar to SSAs that the Philippines has with other countries, the provisions of the SSA with Korea are in line with the State’s policy to afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, as also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating that every member of society has the right to social security. Under the agreement, covered members and their beneficiaries may file their claims with the designated liaison agencies of the Philippines and South Korea which will accordingly extend assistance to facilitate the processing of claims.

For example, if an OFW did not meet the qualifying conditions of at least 120 months of contributions to qualify for a retirement pension under the SSS, but was able to pay the fraction through Korea’s NPS, he/she will still be entitled to the retirement pension, and vice versa, provided that the benefit due to the member will be paid by the respective systems based on actual contributions or period of coverage.

This portability arrangement, which is the core provision of the SSA, will apply to OFWs who will opt to keep their contributions with the Korean NPS.

Further, the agreement ensures that a covered person shall continue to receive his/her benefits regardless of the place of residence, either in the Philippines or Korea or even outside the territories of both countries.

Significantly, the signed agreement is in line with the provision of Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018 wherein the compulsory coverage of OFWs is mandated.

“The law mandates the DFA, the DOLE and all its agencies involved in deploying OFWs for employment abroad, and the SSS to ensure compulsory coverage of OFWs through bilateral social security and labor agreements and other measures for enforcement. In countries that already extend social security coverage to OFWs, like in the case of Korea, further agreements shall be negotiated to serve the best interest of OFWs,” Ignacio said.

“We trust that we can rely on our partner agencies in working towards meaningful social protection for our OFWs,” Ignacio added.

The agreement with Korea will be the 16th SSA that the Philippines has successfully negotiated since 1982. The previously established bilateral SSAs are with Austria (1982), United Kingdom and Northern Ireland (1989), Spain (1989), France (1994), Canada (1997), Quebec (1998), Netherlands (2001), Switzerland (2004), Belgium (2005), Denmark (2015), Portugal (2017), Germany (2018), Japan (2018), Sweden (2019) and Luxembourg (for entry into force in January 2020).