By Chino S. Leyco
State-run Social Security System (SSS) is committed to give overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) higher social security benefits especially during their retirement as the pension fund pushes to implement the compulsory coverage of sector under its new charter.
Aurora C. Ignacio, SSS president and chief executive said the pension fund will exhaust all ways to come out with the guidelines on compulsory OFW coverage while taking into consideration the concerns and suggestions that were discussed during the public forum with stakeholders last May.
Under Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, it mandates a mandatory coverage for OFWs. Following the public consolation, Ignacio said it was clear that all stakeholders are united in providing social security protection to all OFWs, but “we must settle some issues in the implementing guidelines.”
“We will continue to hold discussions with our partners in government who are jointly mandated with the SSS under the new law to ensure compulsory OFW coverage, namely the Department of Labor and Employment and its concerned agencies such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Ignacio said.
“Leaders from both land-based and sea-based OFW sectors will also be consulted in the process, and all together, we will see how we can best implement the provisions of the law” she added.
Based on the SSS date, there were 1.14 million registered OFWs in the system as of last year, of which around 550,000 were paying members during the year.
The pension fund also disbursed an estimated P5.65 billion in benefits to more than 63,000 OFW pensioners and members in 2018, or 89 percent of the P6.37 billion contributions collected from OFWs on the same year.
The pension fund is proposing that all land-based OFWs should pay at least a minimum monthly contribution of P960 which is equivalent to 12 percent of the new minimum monthly salary credit (MSC) for OFWs of P8,000.
Even paying only one month of contribution at the new minimum MSC, an OFW-member will get 61 times in return from his contribution or P58,400 in total lump-sum benefits for disability, death or retirement plus funeral grant.
If they opt to pay at the highest MSC of P20,000 or P2,400 monthly contribution, the benefit amount would be P116,000.
Sickness benefit of OFW-members will also increase under the new minimum MSC for OFWs. From the previous P150/day, it will increase by 60 percent to P240 per day.
Maternity benefit will also increase by more than double from P10,000-P13,000 to P28,000 under the Expanded Maternity Leave Law which took effect on March 11.
For retirement benefit, those with 120 qualifying monthly contributions at P8,000 MSC will have a basic monthly pension amounting to P3,200. If they are paying based on the P20,000 MSC, the pension benefit will be P8,000 per month. This shows that the higher the contributions, the higher the benefits.
“We’d like our OFWs to know that membership with SSS is for life. Membership does not expire so all contributions you put in are all accounted for. In case you stopped paying due to work abroad, you can always reactivate your membership by continuing to pay your contribution to become eligible to the seven types of SSS benefits including unemployment insurance,” Ignacio said.
“I hope our OFWs will look at SSS contributions as their long-term savings and not an expense burden,” she added.
Ignacio said that SSS as an implementor of the law will make sure that all provisions under the SS Act of 2018 will be fully-realized.
At present, SSS has 26 foreign representative offices in 18 countries for OFW member assistance services.