Key principles are laid down in the ILO Conventions and Recommendations which make provision for the social security rights of migrant workers and their families. These principles are as follows:
- Equal treatment and non-discrimination including equal treatment in the field of social security between nationals and non-nationals;
- Maintenance of acquired rights;
- Maintenance of rights in the course of acquisition; and
- Payment of benefits to beneficiaries residing abroad.
The main challenges related to concluding bilateral or multilateral social security agreements: :
- In some origin countries, social security schemes might be insufficiently developed, which is a problem for agreements that apply on a reciprocal basis;
- Social security schemes can also differ considerably –i.e. disparity in the design and level of benefits (e.g. provident funds/social insurance schemes.);
- Administrative capacity can be insufficient;
- Lack of willingness on the part of some countries to conclude agreements.
ILO’s approach to enhance migrant workers’ social protection involves:
- To promote the ratification and application of ILO standards provided in its Conventions and Recommendations relevant to migrant workers and their social protection.
- To support the conclusion of social security agreements (bilateral/multilateral): treaties which coordinate the social security schemes of two or more countries to provide equality of treatment in respect of social security, as well as access to and preservation and/or portability of social security entitlements (ILC 2011 Conclusions), using the Annex of the Maintenance of Social Security Rights Recommendation, 1983 (No. 167) as a model Agreement for the coordination of bilateral or multilateral social security instruments.
- To support unilateral measures: countries of employment can provide unilaterally equality of treatment between nationals and non-nationals as regards social security coverage as well as the payment of benefits abroad. Also, countries of origin can provide a basic level of protection to their nationals working abroad through voluntary insurance.
- To promote the inclusion of social security provisions in temporary labour migration programmes or bilateral labour agreements using the Annex of the Migration for Employment Recommendation, 1949, (No.86) as a model agreement.
- To support the establishment of national social protection floors to ensure basic social security guarantees to migrants and their families and palliate the lack of coordination arrangements between countries in respect of any branch of social security.
- To explore community based mechanisms when implementing social protection schemes for migrant workers.