extends social security
|Doctors check ethnic
minority people in Dac Lac Province. The new social security strategy
will include a monthly allowance for people living below the poverty
line. —VNA/VNS Photo The Anh
HA NOI — Le Van Noi, a
62-year-old retired colonel, says VND3 million out of his VND4 million monthly
pension goes towards household expenses.
It is not enough for a
luxurious lifestyle in the capital city, but leaves enough for extras like
visiting friends or shopping for his family.
"I worked for the
military for 20 years. During that time, I paid for social insurance, which
accounted for 5 per cent of my salary. Now, I live on what I saved."
"I am not worried
about getting sick because I have health insurance to pay for that. My wife has
it also," said Noi.
Noi receives his pension
and health insurance thanks to Viet Nam’s social security system.
The Government spares 3
per cent of the annual GDP to maintain and pay for this programme, according to
Bui Xuan Du, head of Social Security Policy Studies at the Institute of Labour
Science and Social Affairs under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social
There are more than 2.4
million retired people in the country living on pensions and 37 million people
who enjoy health insurance.
In Viet Nam, the social
security system was upheld through creating an active labour market, social and
health insurance and social aid, said Du.
These strategies have
helped drive down the number of people living in poverty from 58 per cent in
1993 to 15 per cent currently and keep the Gini coefficient (measurement of
inequality of income distribution) below 0.4.
However, in Viet Nam,
where Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development statistics show more than 75
per cent of the country’s mainstay is agriculture, only a certain stratum of
the population gains access to social insurance, according to Kramer, chief
technical advisor of GTZ’s poverty reduction project.
If small business owners
and the self-employed are added to the list, the number of people not covered by
social insurance makes up the majority of Viet Nam’s population.
the draft of the 2011-2020 social security system
– 70 per cent of unemployed people get job skills training
– 90 per cent of these get an allowance to find suitable jobs
– 100 per cent get access to health insurance
– 100 per cent of victims of natural disasters and other risks get
– 100 per cent of disadvantaged people get regular relief
Tran Nguyen Minh, 49, and
his family, who live in Ha Noi’s Van Chuong Street, were forced to take out
VND 13 million (US$730) in loans at high interest rates over the last three
months to pay for the costs of treating his lung cancer.
"My father worked in
a coal-producing workshop for 12 years. However, he has no claim to any kind of
social or health insurance, because his workshop is small and informal,"
said Minh’s daughter, Tran Huyen Trang.
Minh’s situation is not
unusual for a country where the majority of the population is not eligible for
social security benefits.
The answer lies in the
Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs’ new draft of a social
security strategy for 2011-20, which promises to extend coverage.
"The draft is a very
good starting point," said GTZ’s Ellen Kramer.
While a major
institutional transition could only be achieved step by step, it was important
to maintain a clear vision of the future social security system and get feedback
from multiple sources, she said.
It was necessary to ensure
fairness in the new social security strategy, said Du.
A person who does not give
5 per cent of his salary for social insurance should not be able to enjoy a
pension like others who pay social insurance fees for decades, according to Du.
Under the new social
insurance strategy, there is a voluntary social insurance option for people who
are not covered at their workplace. This fund will include capital from taxes
and voluntary contributions from labourers— people who pay more into the fund
will benefit more.
In addition, the new
strategy will include a monthly allowance for people who are disabled or old and
health insurance for children.
There would be also a
social fund to provide relief for unexpected occurrences like floods or other
natural disasters, said Du.
"The social security
system, depending on how it is designed and implemented, may play a very
important role in redistributing income between advantaged people and those less
advantaged," said Nguyen Tien Phong, assistant country director of the
United Nations Development Programme.
To ensure the equality of
the system, the new social security strategy must be systematic and clear to
avoid the redundancies of the current system, said Du.
Veteran Noi said he was
embarrassed that he received benefits from two insurance funds while others get
nothing. "One I get from a veterans’ organisation, the other I get from
the district’s war invalids organisation, they explained that their operations
are separate from each other," said Noi.
Currently, the policies
for providing social assistance to poor and vulnerable groups were scattered and
often too small to make big changes in people’s lives, said the UN’s Phong.
The new social security
strategy must build on the current system to learn from past successes and avoid
mistakes, said Phong.
However, to create an
effective social security system, which will benefit more people, the strategy
needs to gain the approval of the people, according to Phong.
"For a social
security system to be sustainable, it must provide a standard of service that is
acceptable to the majority of the country," he said.
The current health
insurance fund is an example of this dilemma. Often even those who have
compulsory health insurance ignore it in favour of better service at private
institutions, so the fund is not financially sustainable.
In 2007 alone, the health
insurance fund experienced a deficit of VND1.6 trillion ($90 million).
"It is necessary to
improve the quality and reliability of services so more and more people will be
willing to contribute to the system," said Ellen Kramer.
Thanks to the new social
security strategy, Noi, the retired soldier, and Minh, the coal worker, will
both receive benefits, along with the majority of Viet Nam’s people. — VNS