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GCM Commentary: Objective 22: Establish mechanisms for the portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits

last modified Nov 22, 2018 11:09 AM

Blog post written by Elspeth Guild, a RLI Senior Research Associate and Jean Monnet Professor ad personam (Queen Mary University of London), and forms part of a series of blog posts analysing the final draft (objective by objective) of the UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

 

The aim of Objective 22 is to resolve transnational social security problems for migrant workers and their families. The problem which it seeks to address is the inconsistencies and incompatibilities in national social security systems which result in migrant workers contributing to social security funds designed for their welfare but being unable to access benefits when, but for their status as migrants (or former migrants), they would be entitled. This is a frequent problem of migrant workers. In their host state, they contribute in their capacity as workers, to various social security systems, for health care, unemployment benefits, maternity care, pensions etc. As long as they remain resident in their host state (and in a regular status) they can usually access those benefits in their capacity as workers and former workers. But when they return to their home state or third state (should they do so) the lack of agreement between their states of residence and employment may mean that the benefits of their contributions are lost. It is a common principle of national social security systems that most benefits can only exceptionally be exported if a worker leaves the country. This can mean that a migrant worker who returns to his or her home state loses all accrued benefits. This may result in migrant workers being ‘trapped’ in their host state as the cost of leaving is the loss of all social benefits attached to that specific social security system. If they return to their home state to retire or to start a family, they may be destitute as a result if their only income was that resulting for their social security contributions in another state which contributions do not give rise to entitlements which are portable. Another consequence of the lack of coordination in social security across countries is that social contributions by migrant workers end up subsidising the social security funds for residents on the host state’s territory because the migrants are unable to access any benefits on account of their whereabouts (or in some cases status as migrants). Some commentators have likened this to theft.

 

Full blog post here

 

Acknowledgements:

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