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Friday, 18 August 2017 16:19
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Social security for Vietnamese farmers

(LLCT) - During the 30 years of renewal, the country’s social security policy has contributed to liberating the working people and creating favourable conditions for the working people, including providing employment for those in rural areas. Many programmes for farmers have been implemented, allowing poor households to escape poverty and reach better living standards. 

1. The CPV’s guidelines on social security

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the The United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, states: “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security... in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality”. Social security is considered one of the core issues of social development and one of the human rights. Vietnam’s 1946 Constitution states, “Working people have the right to employment, rest, social insurance and relief; pregnant women are entitled to rest before giving birth...” Accordingly, the 1992 Constitution also stipulates the State’s responsibility in guaranteeing social security for all, emphasizing the implementation of social insurance for State employees and wage earners, and encouraging other forms of social insurance for working people.

The term “social security” was first used in Vietnam at the 9th National Party Congress during a discussion about addressing social issues. The Congress stated that it was crucial to “immediately expand the social insurance and social security system, and develop and implement unemployment insurance policies”(1). The 10th Congress ordered the Government to “build a diverse social security system and develop a strong social insurance system and systems of unemployment insurance, health insurance and labour protection”(2). They also advised implementing universal health insurance and preferential social policies for people with merits and social policy beneficiaries. Social welfare was defined by the 11th National Party Congress as an integral part of the social policy system, playing an essential fundamental role in the country’s socio-economic strategy. They encouraged the Government to “effectively implement social progress and social equity, ensure social security in each step and each development policy”(3). The Party and State implement mechanisms, policies, and measures to assist and protect all members of the society, particularly the disadvantaged and vulnerable. This follows a policy goal to “ensure social security and continue to revise and pefect the system of social insurance, health insurance, unemployment insurance, social assistance and relief with diversity and flexibility to protect and assist all members of the society, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged groups”(4).

Social security assures support and protection through policies and state measures, especially to disadvantaged members of society. It ensures a minimum standard of living and contributes to improving citizens’ well-being, thereby promoting social development and progress.

2. The reality of social security for farmers

According to the report on the socio-economic situation conducted in the first six months of 2016, Vietnam’s estimated total population is 92.7 million, made up of 34.4 million urban residents and 65.4 million rural dwellers. The workforce, including labourers aged 15 and older, is 53.3 million, 22.5 million (42.2%) of whom working in agriculture, forestry, and fishery sectors.

The agriculture industry is heavily dependent on natural conditions, and due to climate change, the rate of natural disasters and epidemics has increased, hindering agricultural production. Agricultural areas are being reduced or modified in the name of industrial and urban development, which is leading to unemployment and underemployment in agriculture. Unemployment rates in rural areas are seeing an upward trend (from 1.39% in 2012 to 1.49% in 2014 and 1.83% in 2015)(5). The underemployment rate in rural areas is also increasing sharply and is higher than that of urban areas (2.28% compared to 0.72%). In the face of a struggling agriculture sector and rapid social change, farmers are in need of social support to stabilize their lives and develop their businesses. Social security for farmers is an important and urgent matter in order to ensure their well-being and contribute to the national socio-economic stability.

Social security for farmers consists of:

Voluntary health insurance: People participating in voluntary health insurance only pay, on average, one-third of the required health insurance premium. They are, however, entitled to the same full interest rates of people participating in required health insurance.

Voluntary social insurance allows farmers to pay premiums for 20 years and receive retirement and survivor’s benefits depending on their choice of premiums.

Social assistance: This consists of regular assistance and emergency aid, offer relief to those who suffer from natural disasters or those who facing difficult situations, including the elderly, orphans, and those with chronic diseases or disabilities.

Eliminating hunger and reducing poverty are crucial in implementing social security.

Other basic social services and welfare programs include: basic education; primary health care; population and family planning; disaster relief; provision of clean water and environmental hygiene; social welfare; social protection; employment services and vocational universalization for working people; detoxification; and prostitution recovery programs.

These programs would also cover those who have served the country, relatives of war martyrs, war invalids, sick soldiers, heroic Vietnamese mothers, and revolutionary veterans.

During the 30 years of renewal, the country’s social security policy has contributed to liberating the working people and creating favourable conditions for the working people, including providing employment for those in rural areas. Many programmes for farmers have been implemented, allowing poor households to escape poverty and reach better living standards. These include a socio-economic development programme in mountainous and ethnic minority communes and villages facing extreme hardship phase 1 (1998 - 2005) and phase 2 (2006 - 2010); the programme supporting housing and production land and clean water to poor ethnic minority households facing difficult conditions (2005 - 2010); and the programme for rapid and sustainable poverty reduction in 61 poor districts (2008 - 2010).

To date, the aforementioned programmes and projects have brought about positive results:

Hunger elimination and poverty reduction efforts have achieved prominent success. The poverty rate dropped 58% in 1993 to under 5% in 2015, with an average reduction rate of 1.8 - 2% per year(6). In 60 poor or disadvantaged districts, the percentage of poor households dropped from over 50% in 2010 to 28% in 2015. On a national scale, poverty is currently mainly concentrated in remote, mountainous and ethnic areas. The Northwest has the highest poverty rate (34.52%), followed by the Northeast (20.74%), the Central Highlands (17.14%), and the Red River Delta (4.76%). The southeast has the lowest rate of poverty, 1.23%(7). The Party’s and State’s policies on poverty reduction and living standard improvement, particularly for farmers, have had a positive impact on rural communities.

Vocational training and job creation have achieved prominent progress as well. The number of people receiving vocational training has increased consistently over the years. On average, the State provides over 300,000 rural labourers with short-term and primary vocational training each year, accounting for 2% of rural youth. Many provinces and cities have funded enterprises to provide vocational training to local people. In addition to on-the-job support, the State sends labourers to work abroad for limited time. The number of labourers working abroad has steadily increased every year. Since 2006, about 83,000 labourers go to work abroad every year, about 80% of which are rural youth(8). The number of people provided with new jobs has continued to increase, from 6.5 million in 2001 - 2005 to 7.2 million in 2006 - 2010 and 7.8 million in 2011 - 2015(9).

Programmes and projects on clean water, housing, sanitation, electricity, roads, schools, stations and information have all contributed to changing the face of the rural area and effectively supporting rural people, especially those facing difficulties. These programmes have given the poor easy access to preferential credit policies and health and educational support policies. Farmers are exercising their right to education, which has been integrated into poverty reduction programmes and the construction of new-style countryside communities. Thereby, infrastructure in rural and remote areas has improved and schools have been consolidated, encouraging farmers’ children to go to school and get a better education. The Government has implemented universal primary education nationwide. To build stronger countrysides, localities have stepped up their adherence to the criteria for building village culture and eliminating harmful weddings and funeral practices. Almost all rural areas, including mountainous regions and border and island communities, have improved their electricity, roads, schools, stations, markets, telephones, and internet services. Almost all areas of Vietnam receive radio and television broadcasts.

Social insurance and health insurance policies have been gradually perfected, especially targeting groups of labourers without labour relations. The law on social insurance, which came into effect on January 1, 2008, opened the door for farmers to participate in voluntary social insurance and for millions of farmers to access pension and enjoy a comfortable retirement. Addressing farmers’ struggles to pay insurance premiums, the 2014 Law on Social insurance (which came into effect in 2016) supports for voluntary social insurance. Accordingly, voluntary social insurance participants that belong to poor households and near-poor households are provided with State premiums, 30% and 25% respectively. The remaining subjects are supported with 10% of premium. Additionally, in the 2009 implementation of the law on health insurance, the state subsidizes all or part of health insurance premiums for the poor and near-poor, ethnic minorities, beneficiaries of social preferential policies, and children under 6 years old. This has secured health insurance for 60% of the population.

Social aid and relief work has gradually improved as well. So far the Government has instated more than ten codes and laws; seven ordinances, more than 30 decrees, and over 40 circulars, joint-circulars, and documents regulating the legal framework on social aid policy. This includes the Law on Elderly people; the Law on People with disabilities; the Law on the Care, education and protection of children; and the Law on Domestic violence prevention and control. Decrees 67/2007/ND-CP, 13/2010/ND-CP, and 136/2013/ND-CP provide social support policies for social protection subjects. Many social assistance models have been built to meet the increasingly diverse needs of each subject group. The number of social protection establishments has increased rapidly, over half of which are non-state establishments. Farmers have been entitled emergency social assistance in the face of increasing and widespread abnormal risks. Aid forms are diverse, ranging from cash, rice, and necessities to free health checks and preferential credits. Many informal and socialized assistance models have been effectively implemented, such as a “village development fund”, a “community risk management fund”, a “micro insurance fund”, and a “gratitude fund”.

Over the past years, the Government has regularly renewed social security guidelines and policies to suit the practical situation. As a result, rural living conditions, especially for ethnic minorities, have improved. Nonetheless, social security implementation for farmers still requires further work. Although hunger and poverty rates in poor districts have declined significantly, several common patterns of poverty are starting to reappear.

Infrastructure works are costly but inefficient, and many are currently deteriorating. The poor are finding it difficult to access preferential loans. People in remote or rural areas, and those belonging to ethnic minorities still face many difficulties.

Regular social assistance coverage is low, the number of social assistance subjects only accounts for approximately 2.5% of the population. This is a low rate compared to many other countries in the region. The standard for calculating subsidies is low, only equal to 32.5% of the poverty line, thus the living standard of many subjects remains low. Disadvantaged children and poor pregnant and nursing women still face mounting difficulties.

Emergency aid management also has its shortcomings. Aid level is low, only compensating for about 10% of loss, and it is difficult to calculate the total emergency aid resources from contributors. Inedaquate coordination has led to stratified assistance levels for people experiencing the same crisis (such as the death of a provider in a natural disaster). Negatives in the management of social security funds and in the selection of social aid benefeciaries are common problems. Other issues including the subsidization of wrong objects, and lobbying to meet the criteria of poor households and communes.

Farmers have not enthusiastically received voluntary social insurance and voluntary health insurance. In 2015, only 213,000 people were participating in voluntary social insurance, accounting for 0.39% of the population. Apart from those who are eligible for prioritized health insurance, the majority of the remaining rural farmers do not have voluntary health insurance, or only apply in the case of serious illness.

3. Some solutions contributing to successfully implementing social security towards farmers

In order for social security to function well as a multi-layer safety net to prevent, minimize, and overcome risks for people, especially farmers, it is necessary to focus on the following solutions:

First, continue to review and promulgate legal documents on social security to social security workers across the political system and people to raise awareness that social assistance and aid are fundamental human rights. This is separate from humanitarian aid and relief, and will help prevent abuse and delay.

Second, improve the quality of social security workers at all levels and implement the management of social security funds, closely supervising all levels of authority. Avoid dispersing resources and maintain control and coordination over resources.

Third, there should be mechanisms and sanctions binding individuals’ responsibilities with enterprises in using, building on and conducting businesses upon farmers’ land. They must be forced to pay annual contributions to a fund for farmers who lose their land so their families can earn a living, attend vocational training, or find a new form of employment.

Fourth, encourage farmers to participate in voluntary social insurance by providing maximum preferential insurance premiums. Offer all five compulsory social insurance benefits, including entitlement to health coverage for maternity and occupational diseases, pension, and death allowances. Current stipulations cover only pension and death allowances.

_____________________

(1) CPV: The 12th National Congress Documents,National Politics Pubishing House, Hanoi, 2001, p.105.

(2) CPV: The 10th National Congress Documents,National Political Pubishing House, Hanoi, 2006, p.33.

 (3), (4) CPV: The 11th National Congress Documents,National Political Pubishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.227, 43.

 (5) Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Hai Huu: Textbook on social security,Labour and Social Publishing House, Hanoi, 2008, p.19.

(6) Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics: Summary record of the scientific conference of Project KX 02.02/06-10, Hanoi, 2008, p.8.

(7) Prof., Dr. Mai Ngoc Cuong: Building and perfecting the system of social security policies in Vietnam, the National Politics Publishing House, Hanoi, 2009, p. 21-22.

(8) General Department of Statistics: Socio-economic situation in 2015,see page www.gso.gov.vn.

(9) E-portal of the Ministry of Labour, War invalids and social affairs, 22 September 2016.

(10) Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs: Decision 1905/QD-LDTBXH dated 22 August 2016 on approving the results of the census of poor and near-poor households in 2015.

(11) General Department of Statistics: Socio-economic situation in 2014,www.gso.gov.vn.

 

(12) Prof., Dr. Pham Xuan Nam: “Social security and social equity in the current socialist-oriented market economy in Vietnam”,Electronic Communist Review, 30 September 2016.

MA. Phan ThI Hoang Mai

University of Social Sciences and Humanities,

 

Hanoi National University

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