The National Society Protection Council (NSPC) requested that the government continue to delay the launch of its planned social security regime offering pensions for most Cambodian employees because more input regarding the collection of their contributions of wages or salaries to help fund the programme is needed.

The request was made on June 1 during an NSPC’s virtual meeting led by the Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth, who also serves as the NSPC chairman.

Back in 2020, the government delayed the launch of the social security regime granting pensions to Cambodian employees until the first semester of 2021, after the law was promulgated in 2019.

In order to meet the legal standards required to launch the pension programme, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training prepared a sub-decree on the contribution of wages or salaries.

In a press release after the meeting, NSPC said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impacts, it has decided to request that the government continue delaying the launch of this policy and engage in further study to evaluate its impacts.

“At the review meeting and during the discussion of the technical and political aspects, it was agreed that the current situation is not favourable for launching the social security regime providing employees with pensions as put forth in the labour law,” it said.

Finance ministry spokesman Meas Soksensan said the draft sub-decree was drawn up with exchanges of opinion on the political, strategic and technical aspects of the contribution of wages or salaries to the proposed pension programme, in addition to discussions on health care and job-related health risks.

He said the sub-decree took into account the financial burdens that employees and employers would shoulder should they pay into the system. He noted that civil servants working in public sector jobs are already entitled to protections under the National Social Protection Policy Framework.

“Institutions involved with the launch of the social security regime and pension programme should spread the word about it widely before it is launched to increase public awareness about it, especially about the benefits that provide protections to employees under this plan,” he said.

From June 25 last year to May 24 this year, roughly 700,000 poor and vulnerable families affected by Covid-19 had received cash payments through the social protection policy. The families represented more than 2.7 million people.

Among them, there were children under the age of five, disabled children, the elderly and AIDS-positive families. The government has spent $322.81 million on this assistance to date.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said on June 2 that the social protection policy is a good one that can help people improve their livelihoods, especially while elderly people in Cambodia are facing a shortage of work.

Chanroeun said this protection seemed slow and its launch delayed compared to other policies and laws. He urged the government to accelerate the passing of this law in order to benefit citizens, especially the elderly, because they often receive no assistance and frequently experience hardship.

“The delay in the launch of the pension plan for all employees will even make some people lose benefits and delay their ability to receive benefits when their retirement should be accelerated instead of being put off in order to benefit younger members of the workforce,” Chanroeun said.