New benefits for workers

Workers pour concrete at a construction site in the capital. Free health care will be provided to informal workers, like many in the construction sector, under a new sub-decree by the Health Ministry.
Workers pour concrete at a construction site in the capital. Free health care will be provided to informal workers, like many in the construction sector, under a new sub-decree by the Health Ministry. Pha Lina

Maids, labourers and other so-called “informal workers” are set to receive free health care and maternity benefits next year – as long as they can get their employer to register them with the government.

A prakas released last month by the Ministry of Labour asks employers to register the names of their informal employees with the National Social Security Fund in exchange for benefits. In return, informal workers will receive free health care at public hospitals and pregnant workers will receive a $100 maternity bonus for every baby they have.

The prakas defines “informal workers” as those who work for an employer in a small, unregistered enterprise. Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour acknowledged that the regulation rules out the many informal workers who are self-employed, such as street vendors or tuk-tuk drivers. “We only appeal for those who have employers,” Sour said.

He said the effort was part of the ministry’s efforts to formalise the sector, which has struggled to gain labour protections. “We want to expand more social assistance to those people,” said Sour, who added that registration is free.

Yim So Thy, president of the Association of Domestic Workers, said she appreciated the prakas, but appealed to officials to include self-employed workers. “To show that the government really cares about informal workers, they need to provide the same service to street vendors or moto drivers and self-employed workers.”

The prakas will take effect on January 1.

Additional reporting by Daphne Chen