KUALA LUMPUR: The uptake of the Social Security Organisation (Socso) scheme for taxi and e-hailing drivers has been slow as only 7%, or 7,000 out of 100,000 drivers, are currently covered, said M. Kulasegaran.
The Human Resources Minister said that his Ministry is currently in the final stages of discussions with the Transport Ministry on a mechanism to disable drivers from renewing their licence if they do not contribute towards Socso.
"Before we fully implement it, we want to give them a bit of time as a cooling-off period - maybe all of 2019.
"93% of drivers do not have coverage and their job is high risk," said Kulasegaran.
He said this when speaking to reporters after chairing the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) meeting with employer groups in Parliament on Wednesday (Dec 5).
When asked for reasons for the low Socso uptake among drivers, Kulasegaran said their low awareness could be due to them not knowing the benefits of Socso coverage or thinking that they could not afford to contribute to it.
"But the contribution is so small; it costs more to buy a month's worth of cigarettes.
"Therefore awareness programs and campaigns will be focused on this group next year to educate them on the benefits of contributing towards Socso," he said.
The Self Employment Social Security Bill 2017 was passed by the Dewan Rakyat in April 2017.
It seeks to provide Socso protection to self-employed persons but only 5% of drivers, or 5,197 out of the estimated 100,000 of drivers as of October 2018, were covered under the scheme.
This number increased to about 7,000 after the government made the contribution compulsory for such drivers beginning Nov 1 this year.
The contribution is between RM157.20 and RM592.80 per year and the coverage depends on the scale the drivers choose.
Kulasegaran said for years, the drivers had lobbied asking to be covered by Socso, but the response had been lukewarm from their end.
As for the NLAC meeting, Kulasegaran said employer groups had agreed to a number of suggestions by the government, namely the Socso programme for foreign workers in Malaysia, which will take effect beginning Jan 1.
He said he had convinced them to accept this with a simple argument (in reverse psychology), "We have one million Malaysians working overseas. Don't we want coverage for them (too)?"
Kulasegaran also said that the Pakatan Harapan manifesto promise of creating one million new jobs can be achieved.
"Although there are some challenges, looking at total investments from January to September this year, the foreign direct investment has gone up according to figures by the Finance Ministry.
"This will not only increase the number of jobs but also shows confidence in the government," he said.