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Amidst the changing nature of work, researchers and homebased worker leaders from various country homenets  in Southeast Asia came together for a research sharing and planning meeting on social protection  in Bangkok Feb. 14-15 with the support of WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing).

The two-day meeting featured sessions on understanding social protection and informal workers, the future of work, social protection themes and research gaps, and brainstorming/planning for a regional research project.

The HNSEA Perspective

In the session introducing social protection in relation to informal workers, Homenet SEA Regional Coordinator SuntareeSaeng-ging presented the HNSEA perspective and key areas of work.  She reviewed the vision, mission, and objectives of HNSEA since 2006 and showed its continuing emphasis on accessing social protection for homebased workers in the region.   In HNSEA, social protection is understood as “ the scheme/ program that is provided by the state to protect the people when they face difficulties during their life cycle resulting from economic and social difficulties.  It is the right of people and the responsibility of the state.”

Suntaree explained that  universal health care (UHC)  is now the first priority in many ASEAN countries, with  various member states adopting UHC programs of varying coverage and benefits. She highlighted the following barriers to accessing social protection:

1)  Cost: Informal workers struggle to pay for health care in Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, going into debt when they get sick;  2)Accessibility: Often health centers are inaccessible to informal workers  because they are too far away (Laos), lack of information  (Laos) and time (Thailand), non-registration and no permission from employers (Cambodia); 3) Quality:  Informal and poorer workers receive inferior benefits and services ; and 4) Services:  Workers from Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines emphasized the need for occupational health services to be integrated into primary care, and for health services to come to informal workers in their workplaces thereby saving them time and money.

She reiterated  HNSEA’s adherence to the following principles: universalism, which ensures that all including informal workers are covered in each country, whether they are citizens or not: equity in standards, meaning that same quality of health care and level of state spending should apply to all; public financing, which is required by truly inclusive health care systems;  comprehensive benefit packages,  which cover all diseases, focus on prevention, promotion, occupational and reproductive health, and provide medicines efficiently; and participatory governance, whereby civil society becomes part of the health governance structure.  (For details regarding other sessions of the workshop, please see the Jan. 2020 issue of the HNSEA newsletter under the section on “Publications and Resources”  of this website).