About this site

This website focuses on issues regarding social protection in Asia and the activities done by the Asia Network on the Right to Social Protection (ANRSP) and its members. It is under the editorial oversight from the Asia Steering Committee, composed out of members from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia and Philippines. It is meant to foster dialogue and share experiences.
The articles describe challenges and achievements to improve the right to social protection to workers in the region, with a specific focus to gender, youth and informal workers.

22 January 2019

100-year-old ILO prepares for the future

Geneva, January 22, 2019 - The International Labor Organization (ILO) officially launched its centenary with the presentation of the final report of the Global Commission on the Future of Work. As the name suggests, this Commission focused on the Future of Work. Former World Solidarity Chairman and until recently, chairman of the Board of Directors of the ILO, Luc Cortebeeck, also participated in this Committee.

The ILO, when blowing its 100th candle, aims to do 2 things. On the one hand, it looks back on the past as the only tripartite organization in the UN system, where governments, trade unions and employers jointly set out guidelines for social policies worldwide. On the other hand, it wants to look ahead: what challenges do we face in the world of work and what answer can the ILO offer? The Global Commission has focused on this key question since October 2017. Its analysis and recommendations can be found in the report 'Work for a brighter future'.

07 January 2019

Video on the Global Charter for Social Protection Rights

The Social Justice Cluster of the Asia Europe People's Forum presents this video on social protection and on the Global Charter for Social Protection Rights. The video was made with the help of the NGO Forum on ADB. 

The Steering committee of our Asia Network on the Right to Social Protection (ANRSP) has decided to support the charter which will also be discussed at our Asia Seminar in Kathmandu in February 2019.

Please watch the video and distribute it if you can. You can access it by clicking on this link.

04 November 2018

ANRSP attends the ASEAN People's Forum

The ANRSP, represented by Bismo and Ath Thorn (Cambodia Steering Committee Member), attended the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN People Forum in Singapore from 2 till 4th of November 2018. ACSC/APF is a gathering of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Southeast Asia to engage with ASEAN on the issues affecting the region.

01 November 2018

2018 Update on the Bangladesh OHS Initiative

In Bangladesh, WSM and its partners have supported in 2016 till 2018 the OHS Initiative. You can find their latest newsletter here
As an extract, here an email interview with Masud Parvez, previously the Training Manager and now the Project Coordinator of the Bangladesh OHS Initiative for Workers and Community.

What have the participants in the 2017 training course done with their new skills and information?
At the end of the 20-day training course, the first group of participants carried out several training programs for their own organizations, part of the general effort of the participating organizations to make occupational health and safety a part of their regular project activities. Our records show that 20
of the program graduates from the five organizations participating last year carried out a total of 106 training sessions, each lasting from two hours to all day long, for 2,400 participants. Each organization tends to focus on specific topics. For example, some focused on labor law and the role of safety committees, others on hygiene in the workplace, and still others on gender and domestic and workplace violence.
According to our follow-up training plan based on discussions with the member organizations, they will conduct another 108 trainings reaching 2,160 participants by November. These trainings will be
conducted by graduates of both groups, with the new graduates leading two sessions each.

24 October 2018

Bangladesh Labour amendment bill passed

The Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed in Parliament on 24th of October 2018 aiming to give more facilities to workers and reducing the workers' threshold to 20 percent from the existing 30 percent for forming trade unions. State Minister for Labour and Employment (Independent Charge) Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu moved the Bill in the House and it was passed by voice vote.The bill was prepared and updated following the observations of the International Labour Organization (ILO) which will be a labour-friendly one.

Under the new law:

  1. the percentage of workers' participation required for forming trade unions at factories will be reduced to 20 percent from the existing 30 percent;
  2. no child will be allowed to work in factories. If anybody employs child workers, then he or she will have to pay a fine of Tk 5,000;
  3. the punishment of workers for violating laws has been reduced by 50 percent while new facilities included for them;
  4. the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment has been upgraded to the level of Directorate;
  5. The post of the chief inspector of the department is now inspector general, while deputy director general is additional inspector general, and the post of labour director has been upgraded to the rank of director general;
  6. Mentally and physically-challenged labourers cannot be employed in any risky works;
  7. According to section 47 of the Bill, if any female worker gives birth to a baby before informing the authorities, she will get an eight-week leave within three days after informing the authorities. If the factory authorities do not allow her to go on leave, they will be fined Tk 25,000. 
  8. Besides, if any worker does his or her duty during festival, he or she will get a one-day leave and wage for two days after the festival. 
  9. Both owners and workers will be sentenced to one-year jail with a fine of Tk 10,000 for misconduct, which was two years in the previous law. 
  10. Section 195 of the law will be applicable for factory owners and section 196 for labourers and workers. 
  11. In case of natural death, the family of the worker concerned will get Tk 2 lakh as compensation, which was Tk 1 lakh in the previous law, and in the case of injury, they will get Tk 2.50 lakh, which is now Tk 1.25 lakh. 
  12. if the owner is forced to sign or accept anything applying force, issuing threat, confinement, torture and detaching gas, power and water connections, this will be considered as misconduct.
  13. the punishment for enforcing strike illegally has been reduced to six months from one year.
  14. the support of 51 percent workers is needed against present two-thirds of total workers to call a strike. Illegal enforcement of strike will also be considered as misconduct. 
  15. If anyone is found to be a member of a number of trade unions at the same time, he or she will be sentenced to one month's imprisonment which was six months in the previous law. 
  16. According to the ILO convention, the draft law has a scope to form a tripartite advisory council consisting of the government, owners and workers.
  17. the Labour Court will have to deliver judgment in a case within 90 days from the date of filing it and if it is not possible to announce the verdict in the stipulated time, the court must deliver its judgment in the next 90 days. In case of appeal petition, the court will have to pass its order within 90 days. 
  18. the government will have to give registration to a trade union within 55 days from receiving the application which was in 60 days in the previous law.

22 October 2018

Call for contributions for next issue "Decent work - historical and cultural varieties"

The Cologne University's Global South Studies Center has a Call for contributions for its next issue "Decent work - historical and cultural varieties" which is open until 15 November 2018. The web magazine Voices from Around the World presents short analyses, interventions, and other contributions to urgent questions of the Global South – and Global North. The magazine, which was launched by the Global South Studies Center (GSSC) of the University of Cologne (Germany) in 2015, moves beyond rigid spatial, temporal as well as disciplinary boundaries. It aims to kick-start fresh debates by presenting views from thinkers around the globe. One of the web magazine’s unique features is its format. Transgressing traditional academic-style writing, contributors are free to approach each topic in a variety of outlets be it academic texts, essays, interviews, poems, pictures, art expressions or (music) videos. The magazine also acts as a forum for interdisciplinary conversations across a wide variety of social sciences and humanities.

09 October 2018

ILO paper on social protection for older persons

The ILO has published a paper on Social Protection for older persons: Key policy trends and statistics 2017-19 (link).

This policy paper: (i) provides a global overview of the organization of pension systems and their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); (ii) monitors SDG indicator 1.3 for older persons, analyses trends and recent policies in 192 countries, including the extension of legal and effective coverage in a large number of low- and middle-income countries, through a mix of contributory and non-contributory schemes; (iii) looks at persisting inequalities in access to income security in old-age; (iv) presents lessons from three decades of pension privatization and the trend to returning to public systems; (v) calls for countries to double their efforts to extend system coverage, including the extension of social protection floors, while at the same time improving the adequacy of benefits.

We Need 160USD! Bangladeshi Garment Workers Hunger Strike to increase Minimum Wage

The National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) is organizing a token Hunger Strike on 12 October, 2018 by garment workers in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka to demand: reconsideration & increase of the declared minimum wage, basic to be fixed at 70% and not 51%, immediate declaration of the wage for all other grades, annual increment to be fixed at 10% and to increase the wages of other grades proportionately. The President of the federation Mr. Amirul Haque Amin declared this program from the Press Conference held at the auditorium of Dhaka Reporters Unity on 4 October, 2018, in the presence of the other central leaders.

30 September 2018

When civil society speaks, will leaders from Asia and Europe listen? AEPF in Belgium

Mid October 2018 leaders of states from Asia and Europe will meet in Brussels, as part of the Asia Europe summit which happens every two years. In its wake, civil society meets at the Asia Europe People's Forum, as well as business representatives or other lobbying groups. For the very first time, the three networks working on social protection in Asia organised a joint session during this forum as part of the social justice cluster. Hence, a twelve people delegation was supported to attend the 12th AEPF which took place in Ghent, composed out of six Steering Committee Members and a representative from the Network for Transformative Social Protection (NTSP) and the Asian Round Table on Social Protection (AROSP) network.

Topics which were discussed were, among others, trade agreements, climate action, migrants in Ghent, human rights, Palm oil plantations and many more. A part from the overall declaration, the Social Justice cluster came forward with a charter which includes many of the topics our networks have been lobbying for and will be presented to European and Asian leaders, as well as used to advocate at a global level.

 The three networks also organized an open session on The right to Social Protection for All: Strengthening the right to social protection for vulnerable people in Asia & Europe. According to the ILO World Social Protection Report 2017-2019, only 45% of the global population (38,9% in the Asia–Pacific region) is covered by at least one social protection benefit. The right to health is not yet a reality in many countries, especially in rural areas. Lack of social protection leaves people vulnerable to poverty, inequality and social exclusion across the life cycle. Coverage gaps are associated with significant underinvestment in social protection.

At the same time, the world of work is rapidly changing following demographic evolutions, globalization of production, international trade, digital economy and automation, urbanization, workers mobility and increase of non-standard employment (precarious contracts, on call work, etc). This comes on top of persistently high levels of informal economy in many countries. Extending social protection and its benefits, and increasing the availability as well as improving the working conditions are already manifesting as major challenges in the future in Asia and in Europe. In a world with widening inequalities and enormous uncertainties, social protection is needed more than ever; it is a must.

Both in Asia and Europe social movements are mobilising and campaigning for the right to social protection for all to be respected and realized. They are also making the way by establishing own initiatives and mechanisms for social protection. In both Asia and Europe there are some good practices were social movements managed to convince governments to strongly expand social protection coverage introducing various schemes ranging from universal health care, work and livelihood guarantees, unemployment and disability income-support, work injury insurance, old-age pensions, maternity protection, calamity assistance and others.

But given the many challenges and gaps remaining to fully implement and guarantee the right to comprehensive social protection for everyone, current policies will need to be improved and upgraded. Social protection policies should be rights and solidarity based, strongly involve the representative social movements and integrate their initiatives in universal social protection mechanisms so they can cover social protection rights throughout the whole life cycle for the entire population.

We should maintain and fully implement the principles of Social Protection that are globally agreed by the world’s leading organization on social protection standards, the ILO, and its Convention 102 and Recommendations 202 and 204. These and other human rights treaties and declarations clearly state Social Protection is a universal Human Right. It is also well integrated in the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this open space workshop we focus on how social movements assert the right to social protection, and make the way by establishing own mechanisms of social protection and influencing their governments to largely improve their social protection policies in line with the above mentioned principles and international standards.

28 September 2018

Brussels region sisters with Chennai, India and supports domestic workers there

Today, overlooking a gorgeous view of Brussels, our delegation composed out of Sr Vallar from Chennai and Sr Jeanne Devos from NDWM signed the agreement between WSM and NDWM to start a project supported by the Brussels Region. Hosted by State Secretary of Brussels Capital Region Bianca Debaets, this project of two years will be supporting the work done by the National Domestic Workers Movement in Chennai and Tamil Nadu to improve rights and skills of domestic workers. During the visit, Sr Vallar explained that even though the Tamil Nadu government, after decades of lobbying, finally adopted a minimum wage for domestic workers, it was at the rate of 37 INR per hour or 43 eurocent, which was the rate demanded by NDWM... in 2010, so hopelessly insufficient for domestic workers to live on! 

From right to left: Francina Varghese, Jeroen Roskams  and Bruno Deceukelier (WSM), with Sister Vallar and Sr Jeanne Devos (NDWM), with from the Brussels Region Ms Bianca Debaets and Emmanuel Boodts and Pieter-Jan Mattheus, Regional Secretary from Beweging
As comparison, neighboring state Kerala placed the minimum wage at 137INR, or 1,6€. While it is a good thing there is finally a minimum adopted and a mechanism to punish employers who don't respect this, this low rate might even turn out to be counterproductive, as employers paying more might feel they can now offer less. In short, still a lot of work to do, but NDWM feels up to the task, now also with this first ever project with the Brussels Region!

27 September 2018

A good environment practice from Nepal: Himalaya Campaigns by UNITRAV-GEFONT

UNITRAV, a union of around 2.000 Sherpa or guides/porters, organised a cleaning campaign on the Mt. Everest, where workers of the union collected waste left behind from the tourists on the mountain (air tanks, garbage etc.). This has been a big issue, as generations of mountain climbers simply left all their waste behind, which freezes and doesn't decompose. This was also a way to sensitize other guides and tourists that the mountain needs to be kept clean and protected.
Dorje Khatri

Another campaign conducted by GEFONT was  ‘Save the climate, save the Himalayas’. In 2011, Dorje Khatri, leader of Nepal’s trade union of Sherpas, Vice-President of GEFONT, and a committed defender of the environment, planted the ITUC flag atop the peak of Everest as part of global mobilisation by unions pushing for action on climate change leading up to the Durban Climate Summit, which he attended. Khatri did more than going up the mountain seven times. Aspects like climate change indeed affect the melting of the ice and glaciers, which in turn endangers the lives of workers and the population in general. He also spent untold hours organizing fellow Sherpas into their union to achieve decent wages and employment rights. Sadly, in April 2014, Dorje Khatri was among 12 people killed in one of the worst disasters on Mount Everest ever recorded.  Since then, as decided by the 3rd ITUC World Congress, the ITUC General Council annually recognises outstanding contributions to the fight for sustainability and justice, through the Dorje Khatri Award.

26 September 2018

NGWF demands the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to determine the minimum wages of Garment workers

On 13th of September 2018, the minimum wage for Bangladeshi garment workers was fixed at 8.000BDT, which is largely insufficient for garment workers to live. The previous minimum wage, dating from 2013, was 5.300BDT and trade unions were demanding a substantial increase to 16.000BDT to compensate for inflation. On 26th of September 2018, after hundreds of garment workers gathered in a Bangladeshi Flag Rally in front of the national press club in Dhaka, this demand was submitted in a memorandum to the prime minister.

Speakers highlighted the following points:

  • The announced 8.000BDT is for 7th grade workers, which are basically helpers, representing only 3% to 5% of the total garment workers. No minimum wage was announced for other types of workers, including the main driving force operators.
  • Of the announced 8.000BDT (gross wage), only 4.100BDT is considered as basic wage, or only 51% of the gross wage. This means all aspects which refer to the basic wage, like overtime, festival bonus, service and retirement benefits, will be very low as well. For instance, if a worker gets 20BDT per hour for general duty, with this low basic wage, in doing overtime, she or he will get only receive 20,40BDT.
  • No mention is made to a yearly wages increase rate, while trade unions recommend an annual inflation by 10% rather than the previous 5 %.

 The following 4 demands are included in the memorandum:

  1. The announced wages have to be reconsidered and increased.
  2. Wages of all categories of workers have to be defined, including operators.
  3. The basic wage must constitute 70%, not 51% as currently is the case.
  4. Yearly wages increase must be 10%.

Asian Networks on social protection meet EU Parliamentarians

Members of the ANRSP, together with the two other Asian networks on social protection, NTSP and AROSP, met with European Parliamentarians on the 26th of October 2018 in Brussels. Taking advantage of their stay in Belgium for the Asia Europe People’s Forum, this exchange on the situation in Asian countries regarding human rights, free trade agreements and social protection was done with the Global Progressive Forum (GPF), which is a common initiative of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament and the Party of European Socialists. Their network sprang up from the success of the first World Social Forum held in January 2001 in Porto Alegre and aims to bring together a diversity of people from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America to discuss and propose alternatives to the negative aspects of the current Globalization process. The GPF had also invited members of the network of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, who contributed as Asian Parliamentarians. Invited by WSM, the Social Protection Expert of the European Commission DG DEVCO and a member from the Regional Affairs and South Asia of the European External Action Service (EEAS), also attended and explained their priorities.

 Our delegation highlighted the current situation in India and the dangers to the labour movement there, with an increasing criminalisation and deterioration of labour rights in the process of codifying the labour laws. NDWM also referred to the situation of domestic workers, with Sister Jeanne Devos explaining the history of their movement and their involvement in the process of the ILC189. Another big topic was the influence the EU can have through trade agreements which conditionalize import tariffs with the respect of human and labour rights, for instance in the Philippines (GSP+) and Bangladesh (Sustainability Compact). Bismo Sanyoto, Thematic and Political Coordinator of the ANRSP talked about the two issues of social protection: how to finance this (most countries still spend less than 2% of the GDP on social protection) and how to extend the coverage, also for informal workers.

Despite all the lofty declarations which put social protection as a priority for the development programmes of the EU, the representative from DEVCO said less than 1% of the overall DEVCO budget is dedicated to SP projects. He said the future global programme will focus on budget support, in 5 to 8 countries over the world, to link public finances and social protection. This would involve civil society organisations, also through the Global Coalition on Social Protection Floors, of which WSM is an active member.

18 September 2018

How to pay to extend social protection?

 ITUC, with FES and WSM brought together 140 participants from over 30 trade unions and civil society organisations in the world to look at ways to finance social protection 17-18 September in Brussels. Worldwide, social protection is increasingly recognised as a priority: by the ILO (with Recommendation 202 on social protection floors adopted in 2012), the EU, the World Bank, the IMF and even the G20. As a result, it features very prominently in the Sustainable Development Goals (1.3).

Gijs Justaert from the policy department of WSM: “Though the consensus on the need for social protection grows, the main question remains: how to achieve universal social protection in each country?”. Alison Tate, Director of Economic and Social Policy at ITUC feels that “extending social protection shouldn’t be seen by governments as an increased expense, as many do - in an environment of austerity, but as an investment that pays off in terms of better skills, greater equality and inclusive economic growth.”

Several international organisations (ILO, WB, IMF, EU and OECD) and development partners shared their views on the question of sustainable financing. Bruno Deceukelier, Asia Coordinator for WSM sees “a big difference in approach between some of them. The World Bank and IMF want to assist the extreme poor or crises affected population, whereas Social Protection with a right based approach would ensure universal coverage, which would also gather larger support from all citizens.” The FES Social Protection Index and other research shows that in the short term, 71 countries could achieve social protection floors for all by investing an extra 2% of GDP or less.

Sulistri, from KSBSI
In South Asia, the informal workers still have to be reached and covered by the newly adopted social security schemes, because they represent over 80% of the population, as well as labour migrants, both in the sending or the destination countries”, says Umesh from GEFONT in Nepal. 

Sulistri, from KSBSI, and also Steering Committee member for Indonesia of the Asia Network on the Right to Social Protection (ANRSP) echoes this: “As a union we successfully pushed for the inclusion of workers from the informal economy in the law on social security, but it is complicated because the contributions come only from the workers, and have to be paid regularly; if not, they lose their benefits. This seminar looked at eight options to finance Social Protection, and, hopefully with the assistance from ITUC, we can analyse which are most appropriate for us in Indonesia.” 

Prit SoUot from CLC Cambodia, highlights existing gaps: “the NSSF only covers employment injury insurance for the enterprises employing at least 8 workers and that the Cambodian Government’s plan to extend social insurance for disabled, unemployed and retirement needs to be closely monitored.”

Francisca Altagracia Jimenez
Francisca Altagracia Jimenez from AMUSSOL-CASC explained their efforts to cover the informal workers in the Dominican Republic, which wasn’t an evident choice for trade unions, but which has allowed them to increase their membership. “Today, more than 60.000 informal economy workers, 40% of them women, enjoy health care, employment injury insurance and an old age pension.” 

But social protection is not only for the workers, and Drissa Soare from CNTB, Burkina Faso highlights the importance of working together with other actors of civil society, like health cooperatives to help ensure the access to health: “with the support of WSM, we have been working together in a multi-stakeholder network to lobby for better legislation and extend the services and coverage to their members.

 Drissa Soare from CNTB, Burkina Faso and Alison Tate, ITUC
In short, as Alison Tate, Director of Economic and Social Policy of ITUC says: “Promoting Social protection is part of the core business of trade unions, as it links directly to the fight against inequality.” This seminar allowed trade unionists and civil society representatives from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe to share experiences and good practices. Several of them highlighted the need to work together in strategic alliances to address the huge challenges that remain.  Something WSM and its partners already do within their network on the right to social protection. Something ITUC, FES, WSM and several other civil society organisations do within the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors.

In short, the conference was an excellent opportunity for WSM and its partners to increase their visibility and highlight some of their work, not only to other trade unions, but also to stakeholders like the ILO, potential donors and partners which could support our rights-based approach to promote the right to social protection for all around the world.