Advocacy and Representation of Marginalised Workers in the National Social Protection Policy Framework (NSPPF) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF)

The Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) agreed to provide HEF (Health Equity Fund)[1] to all vulnerable informal workers including workers in the informal economy and farmers at the end of 2017. As a result, in February 2018, approximately 3,000 members IDEA including Tuk-Tuk and motor taxi drivers, domestic workers, street vendors, and waste collectors received HEF. However, after the election in July 2018, this initiative was suspended. 

In the meantime, various initiatives were discussed regarding the access to NSSF by informal workers through voluntary contribution. In support of this initiative, IDEA conducted a study on the income and domestic expenditure of domestic workers and Tuk-Tuk/Motor drivers in 2018, in order to understand workers ability to voluntarily contribute to NSSF. In 2019, the committee from the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training; and other related ministries agreed to implement a pilot scheme for voluntary contribution to NSSF for informal workers. However, this mechanism is still in the designing stage. The new law on NSSF mentions the expansion of coverage to self-employed, domestic workers and Tuk-Tuk/Motor drivers. There will be separate sub-decree for the implementation process. 

Recently, I have sat with Mr. Leng Vuthy and Ms. Sovann Vary who are Tuk Tuk drivers to learn the importance of NSPPF and NSSF for their living.     

Mr. Leng Vuthy - Tuk-Tuk Driver and Local Leader of IDEA

Mr.Leng Vuthy, a tuk tuk driver, is also known as the core leader of IDEA based in Takmao, Kandal Province. Photo: Oxfam 

Mr. Leng Vuthy is 52 years old. During this lifetime, Vuthy has had many jobs to sustain his five children (3 daughters and 2 sons). Two of his children are already married and leave in Phnom Penh, while the other three continue to study and require his support. In 2008, he started to work as a motor taxi driver and soon became a member of IDEA. During that time, he also worked in a bakery, making ends meet.  As a member of IDEA, Vuthy always felt supported by members and felt inspired by the spirit of solidarity of the group. Slowly he became a Local Leader of IDEA in his community (Takmao, Kandal province). Initially he started to mobilize 20 members and gradually expanded the group to 120 members. His success in organising and mobilizing more members was due to his strong commitment and communication with the fellow drivers. He is well respected, caring and supportive of the members. Anytime there is a problem or other road issues, Vuthy will be there to provide support. He gained notoriety in his community and was even approached by the district governor to become the village chief. However, being a man of value, Vuthy refused to take that role, because he didn’t want to be associated with the ruling party. In 2018, as a member of IDEA, he managed to receive the HEF card to access free health care services, which later proved to be a life saver. Vuthy was one of 3,000 IDEA members who received HEF in 2018, as a result of the ongoing advocacy for expansion of HEF to informal workers led by IDEA. 

Mr.Vuthy discusses with members of IDEA during break from work. Photo: Oxfam   

In March 2020, Vuthy’s life took a tragic turn as a result of a traffic accident. He was seriously injured and spend 2 months in hospital. For several weeks after, Vuthy continued to receive medical care, being closely monitored by the doctors who treated him, and was able to return back to work in July 2020.  Vuthy estimated that the cost of the hospitalization and all the medical treatment he received was approximately 6,000$, a huge amount considering that he earned between $10-$30 per day. With his family income, Vuthy wouldn’t have been able to pay for all this expenditure. Luckily, the HEF card he possessed enabled him to receive free medical care and avoid a very difficult economic situation.

As if his accident wasn’t enough, Covid-19 was another blow to his family. Due to movement restrictions, his income has drop severely, from $10-30 per day to barely $2-5 per day; while other days he doesn’t earn anything. Currently, his family relies solely on his wife’s income who works in the district hospital and has a more stable job. Although Vuthy’s economic situation is very difficult at the moment, he maintains his commitment and continues to support the members who are in the similar situation. Now more than ever, he is an avid advocate for the NSSF and HEF for all informal workers.

Ms. Sovann Vary, Domestic Worker and Tuk-Tuk Driver, member of IDEA

Mrs.Sovann Vary currently works as a domestic worker at day time and tuk tuk driver at night.
Photo: Oxfam 

At 38, Vary hasn’t had an easy life. Economic hardships, losses, and constant challenges are part of her daily life. She started to work as a domestic worker when she was 22 years old. Since then she worked for different employers. Due to the nature of her work, Vary rarely had a stable and secure job, jobs would come and go leaving her many times in vulnerable situations. When her daughter was 2 years old, she divorced her husband and decided to raise her daughter on her own, although that meant more economic insecurity and financial difficulties. Since then, her ex-husband hasn’t provided any support and it has been completely absent from her daughter’s life, now 7 years old. At the same time, sadly, her mother passed away and a few years later her father followed. With no relatives around and without peer support, in 2018 Vary registered as a member of IDEA’s domestic workers’ group. 

Before Covid-19, she had a relatively stable job. She worked 5 days per week, 8 hours per day as a domestic worker for a foreign family. She used to earn 150$ per month. Covid-19, however, has made her job very instable. Due to fear of catching the disease, her employer asked her to work limited hours, so her salary dropped by 50%, earning approximately 75-80$ per month. Having to care for her daughter, paying daily expenses and monthly rent, Vary decided to take up on another job. After her daily job, she became a tuk-tuk driver at night from 6pm to 11pm. She took a 5,000$ loan from a micro-finance institution and bought a tuk-tuk. The loan is costing her 200$ per month, which is a big amount, however she feels that this is the only option she had at that time. Being a member of IDEA have her confidence in pursuing this new job. She feels supported and comfortable to ask for support from IDEA when she needs it. She received training on how to use the communication device (I-Com), and to communicate with her local leader and other members.

As a single mother, Mrs. Sovann has to take her 8-year-old daughter with her in tuk tuk since no one takes care of little kid at home. Photo: Oxfam

As a female Tuk-tuk driver, Vary is challenging the stereotypes of the Cambodian culture, where the transportation sector is male-dominated and it’s still difficult to accept women as taxi or tuk tuk drivers. It hasn’t been easy for her. Every day she faces long stares from costumers, uncomfortable questions and insults from other drivers, like “why don’t you choose another job”, “it’s night time, why don’t you go home?”, “why don’t you let you husband work as a tuk-tuk driver?”, etc. In a society where women are still made to feel ashamed when they do something that could be perceived as outside of their roles, Vary is not giving up. Due to Covid-19, her income is not great, but she manages to earn between 3-5$ per day. 

As a single mother and without the support from her family, Vary has had many challenges in combining her job with the childcare responsibilities. Before Covid-19, she dropped her daughter at school, but since then, all the schools have closed so sometimes she takes her with her while she works.

Vary is still waiting for to receive HEF and NSSF cadrs. She knows that without any safety nets and social protection, Vary and her daughter are very vulnerable. In the future, she dreams to provide a good education for her daughter so that she could have better life opportunities. She is committed to keep her job in the transportation sector and continue her support to IDEA.

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Thanks to financial support from DGD of Belgium, Oxfam and it partners including: CCAWDU, CCFC, CFSWF, IDEA, and YRDP are implementing the project Inclusive and Equitable Social Protection for Marginalised Informal Workers in ASEAN 2017-2021 to increase, workers’ economic and social resilience, in particular women, by influencing the relevant decision makers to expand, finance and deliver social protection more effectively and equitably.

You also can read Oxfam's brief on '' the impact of Covid-19 on Cambodia’s most vulnerable populations"  through this link: https://bit.ly/3lbqY6D

 

 

 

[1] A scheme that gives vulnerable populations, categorized as poor, access to free health care services