In order to share experiences from other countries and discuss regional initiatives, from 22nd to 24th August 2016, the 5th regional Asian Roundtable on Social Protection was held in Jakarta, Indonesia. The conference emphasized the role of the Government in ensuring Social Security and calling for regional initiatives about social protectionfor workers.
Although Asia is the area which has rapid economic growth, inequality is still increasing and poverty still exists in the region. The poverty rate decreases slowly, unemployment rate and unstable employment is increasing and million workers are living in poverty. The most disadvantaged people are vulnerable groups including workers working ininformal area, female workers and migrant workers.
Meanwhile social protection means all people, especially the disadvantaged are guaranteed a life with basic needs, some countries in Asia are gradually reducing their role in ensuring the welfare of the people. It is expressed in different ways, such as significantly cutting the state budget for social protection and privatizing public services. Even in their own social protection programs, the Government’s role is limited. For example, most of social insurance programs base on the contribution of employers and employees. Informal workers and those without stable income have to pay the entire cost. The Government only manages funds and pays pensions. When the workers call for increasing pension, the Government copes with difficulties due to lack of resource.
In this context, from 22nd to 28th August 2016, the 5th regional Asian Roundtable on Social Protection (AROSP) Conference was held in Jakarta, Indonesia in order to discuss the role of the Government in ensuring social protection, successful initiatives at grassroots level and experience from countries in the region as well as action plans for the future.
Over 70 participants from trade union organizations, research units, social organizations and workers in 13 countries and territories in the region (including Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao, Myanmar, Indonesia, Phillipines, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal, Hongkong and China) attended the conference. In 3 working days, the participants discussed issues related to social protectionin the context of each country and territory, labor trends in the near future, the role of the Government as well as private areas, difficulties of disadvantaged labor groups, budget and financial mobilization for social security as well as solutions for the raised issues. The representatives of CDI, Oxfam Vietnam and LIGHT Institute for Development & Community Health gave a general introduction of the social protection system of Vietnam and shared experiences in the process of supporting workers and advocacy. In addition, participants also conducted in-depth discussion sessions to define priority issues and make action plan for each specific area including the ASEAN Community, areas of South Asia and East Asia.
At the end of the conference, participants all agreed that Asian countries need to direct a complete social protectionsystem, which not only ensures the benefits of payers – beneficiaries but also ensures the social welfare in generally, especially for vulnerable groups, and promotes the social development. It could not be achievable without a people-centered strategy for long-term economic development, which is built on the basis of active participation from the grassroots level. Social protection programs must be implemented with the approach based on human rights. The mobilization as well as budget and national resources allocation need to ensure the transparency and accountability, make sure to meet the needs of the people. Representatives of organizations also committed to continue promoting activities from the community, capacity building for workers and related organizations, uniting and supporting workers at national and regional level, aiming to more effective campaigns and advocacy.