Majority of construction workers in Cambodia lack social security, health insurance


Construction workers in Phnom Penh in the past. The majority are working informally, according to a recent International Labor Organization (ILO) report. - The Phnom Penh Post/ANN

PHNOM PENH: Some 97 per cent of workers in the construction sector lack access to social security and social health insurance although most of them are aware of the benefits provided by the social protection system, according to national statistics highlighted at an International Labor Organization (ILO) consultative workshop on “Promoting Decent Work and Formalisation in the Cambodian Construction Sector” on Wednesday (June 5).

The workshop was conducted to present the findings and recommendations from the study to the tripartite stakeholders including representatives from the government and employers’ and workers’ organisations.

The lack of access to social security and social health insurance “leaves hundreds of thousands of workers exposed to critical risks of income loss in case of employment injury or medical expenses,” ILO stated in a press release after the event.

During the “Consultative Workshop to Promote Decent Work and Social Security Coverage among Construction Sector Workers”, the findings of an ILO study entitled “Diagnostic of Informality in the Cambodian Construction Sector” were discussed.

"Promoting formalisation in Cambodia’s construction sector will help improve livelihoods and boost economic growth," it read. It noted that participants deliberated on policy and procedural recommendations aimed at enhancing decent working conditions for construction sector workers.

According to the Cambodian Labour Force Survey 2019, approximately 94% of the 479,783 individuals, of which 19 per cent are women, are working informally in the construction sub-sector.

The recommendations discussed aim to enhance social security coverage, promote formalisation and improve safety in the sector.

Achieving these goals requires impactful measures, including awareness campaigns, leveraging digital technologies and simplifying registration processes.

Tripartite dialogue among the government, employers and workers is crucial for consensus-building and effective policy implementation.

Additionally, inter-ministerial cooperation is a necessary condition to streamline processes and strengthen enforcement efforts, ultimately facilitating the transition to formality and ensuring better protections for workers in the sector.

President of the Association of Transportation Workers and Informal Employment Neak Heng noted that foreign construction workers in Cambodia have health insurance, but local workers do not even have a National Social Security Fund (NSSF) card.

"When foreign investors come to do business in Cambodia, even in projects, they should allocate some profit to help the health of the workers. Some construction workers become disabled, but they do not even have an NSSF card," he said.

Heng Sophannarith, Deputy Director-General of the NSSF, could not be reached for comment on June 5.

A representative from the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said at the event that after registering with the NSSF, workers receive numerous benefits such as work accident insurance, healthcare and pensions.

The Ministry currently simplifies the online registration procedure by requiring only the employer's identity card, passport or business registration.

Workers do not need to visit the NSSF office directly; they only need to submit a work card and a photo of their face via digital means.

The only time it is necessary to visit the office is when picking up their card, as they need to have their fingerprint scanned.

“So almost 100 per cent of the registration work is done online. Some construction workers themselves do not have ID cards. This is the challenge,” he said.

Chi Phalla, human resource manager at LBL International and chairman of the Sector Skills Council for Construction, said that to increase NSSF registration, encouragement is required, as well as strengthening inspection work at companies and enforcement of the law by relevant ministries.

In addition, he called for improvements at construction sites, including additional training, safety enhancements and motivating construction contractors to purchase safety equipment for workers. - The Phnom Penh Post/ANN

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