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tuk tuk social protection Cambodia AFD workers driver
Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has been helping to strengthen social protection for workers in Cambodia for several years now. A new project aims to extend it to workers in the informal sector – who are not subject to the rules governing labor law – starting with tuk tuk drivers and domestic employees. Thibault Van Langenhove, head of the social protection project team at AFD, tells us more about it.
How long has AFD been working in the social protection sector in Cambodia?

We have been working in this health social protection sector since 2005, via support to the Sky health insurance project developed by the NGO GRET for the rural and urban informal sector. AFD also started supporting GRET in 2008 for a health insurance project for women workers in the textile sector, in partnership with the Garment Manufacturers Association (GMAC) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). A total of 7,000 people have benefited from this coverage.

In 2013, at the request of the Cambodian Government, GRET transferred its management teams to NSSF, with the aim of extending the model developed in the context of the project nationwide. Today, 1.4 million people benefit from this health insurance, meaning a majority of workers in the formal sector!

It now involves building on this momentum by extending social security cover to workers in the informal sector…

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), workers in the informal sector account for over 90% of the working population in Cambodia. They are not covered by the health insurance scheme under labor law and often earn too much to benefit from schemes for the poorest populations. Yet it will not be possible to achieve the decent employment objectives in Cambodia without these workers who are, in addition, particularly exposed to health and occupational accident risks.

We have therefore launched a pilot project with GRET for tuk tuk drivers and domestic employees. We have decided to focus on these groups as they are organized in trade unions or associations, which will be very helpful in identifying workers and ensuring there is effective communication.

We hope we will be able to cover 9,000 tuk tuk drivers and 1,678 domestic employees in the capital Phnom Penh. Our objective is to eventually propose a model which works, both for workers and for the National Social Security Fund at the administrative level: adjustment of registration procedures at NSSF, amount of the contribution and collection methods.

And what next?

Based on the model developed, NSSF will be responsible for extending the protection to workers in all sectors, in line with its national social protection strategy, to achieve the objective of setting up universal health insurance coverage. GRET works in partnership with JICA (Japanese development agency), which wants to support the Government for the extension of health insurance coverage to informal workers, particularly in rural areas. 

Furthermore, NSSF currently only covers risks related to illness and occupational accidents. In the long term, we hope to have the opportunity to continue the work with ILO and GRET to develop a real pension scheme in Cambodia.

Further reading: 

Training: A Lever to Improve Decent Work

5 Challenges for Employment in Developing Countries

Turkey: At the Factory of Gender Equality