Governance and Sustainability

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Despite the continuous growth of migrants’ percentage all over the world, the definition of a transnational social protection system is still incipient

Authors: Verónica Redrobán Herrera & Daniela Paredes Grijalva

According to United Nations, there are currently 214 million of migrant people in the world, and this number should be increased by almost 50% by 2050. If this trend involves people from all ages, nowadays 1 in every 8 people has more than 60 years old, and for 2030 it will be 1 in every 6. On the other hand, according to the IDB (2016), before 2050, between 47% and 60% of the older adults in Latin America and the Caribbean won’t have saved enough money for a dignified old age.

If we add to this the fact that a part of this population reaching old age has lived in different countries due to migratory processes, who will close this gap? The countries where they have lived all their life, their countries of origin or their personal networks?

The great majority of people who decide to emigrate swell the ranks of population economically active which, theoretically, would give them access to social security services and health assistance, in case of being formally incorporated to the labour market. However, even for migrant workers that are in regular situation, the access to social security, especially once they are retired, can be void or at least limited when it doesn’t exist interstate mechanisms of coordination. And the situation can be even more complex for people in irregular migratory situation or for those working for “informal” sectors and who don’t have any official record of employment history [1].

Migrant population is thus exposed to a double risk of vulnerability: firstly, losing the cover from their country of origin, if they are not able to transfer this right to the place where they currently live and secondly, the risk of a limited or inexistent access to social security systems in their country of destination.

The portability, in other words the “capacity to preserve, maintain and transfer social rights obtained or in procurement process, regardless of the nationality and country of residence of the person concerned” (AISS, 2011) is essential if we recognize the increasing number of people living abroad.

Several countries in the world have defined the portability of rights as a central issue to be addressed within the international migratory agenda and which has a close relation with the International Convention on the protection of International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990).

That said, how can we protect persons in mobility that pay contributions to different social security systems all over their migratory experience? The Ibero-American multilateral convention of Social Security (2005) has been signed by 22 countries and is currently in force in nine of them [2]. This regional agreement gives to the migrant worker – contributing to social security in different countries – the opportunity to totalize all his periods of contribution, and even to retire in some other country of the group.

This way, the right to social security is guaranteed for migrant workers from the formal sector, especially the economic safeguard for old age people to preserve all the years of contributions of their economically active life.

We estimate that around six millions of Ibero-American migrants benefit from this convention. The earlier date of the convention’s entering into effect dates back to 2011 and the most recent is from 2016, which implies that it is still too early to assess the effectiveness of its application. Nevertheless, it is worth highlighting the convention’s nature, which approaches a notion of Ibero-American citizenship, recognizing the mobility of people and enabling the safeguard of their rights, particularly the social ones.

In this context, several questions have appeared challenging the ability if this convention to open a path to promote the creation of legal supranational instruments coordinating the social security’s schemes in order to protect migrant workers at wider levels, for example between the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

It is now urgent to create public policies that improve the access to social protection during the different stages of life, in what is related to social transfers and pensions, to close the inequity gaps and avoid an intergenerational transmission of poverty in Latin America.

[1] This concern can be exacerbate if we consider the increasing number of migrant people, especially women who work for the domestic system, an economic system that many times doesn’t fulfill all the formalities of employment, among them, the affiliation to official registries of employment history (AISS, 2011)

 [2] These 9 countries are: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, Uruguay, Paraguay and Portugal.

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Mélanie Romat
16 February 2017

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