Nepali workers and their families to benefit from Malaysian government’s social security schemeNepal and Malaysia are expected to sign an agreement which will bring migrant workers under the coverage of the scheme that will protect them in case of work-related injuries, sickness and death.
Tens of thousands of Nepali migrant workers living and working in Malaysia as well as their families back home will soon benefit from the Malaysian government’s social security scheme.
In 2019, the Malaysian government made it mandatory for all employers in the country to register all their foreign workers with the Malaysian Social Security Organisation (SOCSO) and contribute to the Employment Injury Scheme. The scheme insures migrant workers in case of occupational disease, workplace accidents and death.
The Malaysian government has already approached the Foreign Employment Board of Nepal with a proposal of signing a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) for enrolling Nepali workers under the scheme.
“Soon after the Malaysian government introduced the scheme, they had approached the board for the MOC signing. A Malaysian team also visited Nepal in November last year,” Rajan Prasad Shrestha, executive director with the board, told the Post. “We worked on the draft MOC, but things could not progress due to the pandemic. Now that we have finalised the draft MOC, we will soon sign it.”
Malaysia is one of the most preferred labour destinations for Nepalis but also one of the deadliest ones. Every year, hundreds of Nepali workers die in the Southeast Asian nation due to cardiac arrests, workplace accidents, road accidents, diseases and other unknown reasons.
In the last 11 years, a total of 7,467 Nepalis have died while working abroad and 2,672 of those deaths were in Malaysia alone, according to the records of the Foreign Employment Board.
Officials in Nepal believe the scheme will offer better protection of workers as well as their families in case of an accident, sickness or death.
“This is a landmark event towards the protection of Nepali workers in Malaysia where they are dying in huge numbers,” said Shrestha. “Being under the safety net of the social security scheme, employers will also be more responsible towards the safety and well-being of their workers.”
The social security scheme covers employees in the event of workplace injuries, occupational diseases and accidents during work-related travels. It also provides cash benefits, medical treatment, temporary/permanent disabled benefits, dependent’s benefits and physical rehabilitation, repatriation costs and funeral expenses in case of deaths.
As per the contribution-based welfare scheme, Malayasian employers are required to contribute an amount equivalent to 1.25 percent of the worker’s monthly wages to SOCSO every month. With the scheme coming into force from January 1, 2020, all the foreign employers must register with the SOCSO.
As per the scheme, a family member—spouse, parents or 21-year-old offspring—of a deceased migrant worker will receive an amount equivalent to 90 percent of his or her monthly salary for the rest of the life, said Shrestha.
Likewise, migrant workers will also be eligible for financial assistance in case of temporary disablement. For permanent disablement, the worker and family member will be entitled to lifetime benefits.
If a worker dies in Malaysia and has to be cremated there, the family will get financial support of Malaysian Ringgit (RM) 2,000 for funeral service. For a worker whose body has to be sent home, the family will get RM 6,500 for repatriation, according to Shrestha.
Under the MOC, the Foreign Employment Board will be responsible for verification of data on migrant workers and their families and the transfer of funds to the concerned families.
“In case of an incident involving Nepali workers, the Malayasian authority will seek details of the workers and their families. We will collect those details, verify them and them to Malaysia,” said Shrestha. “The board will then facilitate the transfer of compensation amount to the bank account of the workers who have injured or died in work-related incidents. The board will work as a bridge between workers’ families and the Malaysian authority to make the process free from hassles.”
The Malaysian authority has informed the board that nearly 125,000 Nepali workers have already enrolled under the social security scheme by the end of 2019.
Shrestha said the board is also studying the possibility of providing 24-hours coverage to the workers under the scheme.
“When employers contribute to the monthly premium, the coverage is limited to working hours. However, with some contribution from the workers as well, it can be extended to 24-hours,” said Shrestha. “If we can make it to 24-hours, our workers will be better protected. The overall treatment of our workers will be different as the whole mechanism would be responsible and also financially accountable.”
Authorities in Nepal have also intensified the homework for signing the MOC so that Nepali workers and their families can benefit from the scheme at the earliest.
The Nepal Embassy in Malaysia has also given a positive response to the proposed MOC, according to Shrestha.
“With the go-ahead from the Nepali mission, we had also shared the draft with the Law Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After finalising the draft, the secretariat meeting of the board endorsed the document on Tuesday. It has been forwarded to the Labour Ministry for final approval.”
The board is considering the option of formalising the MOC through the letter of exchange by giving a power of attorney to the Nepal Embassy in Malaysia if the signing is not possible through visits.
Coverage of Nepali workers under the Malaysian social security scheme is also seen as a point of negotiation for protecting Nepali migrant workers in other labour destination countries.
“Protection of Nepali workers through the host government’s social security scheme is a milestone for protecting our workers,” said Shrestha. “As our topmost goal is to protect our workers, we can also negotiate with other countries in the Gulf region to provide similar protection to our workers in the future by showing the example of Malaysia.”