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Updated by Sven Nef on 21.04.2017

Since independence in 2002, Timor-Leste has devoted special attention to social protection, with article 56 of its Constitution affirming the right of all Timorese citizens to social security and assistance. The State promotes, in accordance with its national resources, the establishment of a social security regime and the successive governments have made assisting the poor and vulnerable a national priority, as affirmed in the Timor-Leste Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030.

Although the majority of the population faces a multitude of socioeconomic insecurities, modest subsidies and other in-kind support to the most vulnerable have helped improve the disadvantaged situation of these groups:

  • Maternity is recognized and protected, ensuring all women special protection during pregnancy and after birth. For working women, the right to maternity leave for an adequate period of time, before and after birth, without loss of income and other rights, is established;
  • The Timorese State ensures special protection to the war handicapped, orphans and other dependants of those who dedicated their lives to the fight for national independence. Having been introduced in 2006, pensions to the veterans of independence were provided to 3.5 thousand beneficiaries in 2010;
  • Health services are delivered by means of physicians in the districts and, in order to overcome the lack of infrastructure, the Ministry of Health is currently introducing mobile medical attention units; 
  • The Law-Decree N. º 19/2008 recognized the insecure situation of the elderly and invalids and established a support subsidy for this vulnerable category of the population. The support subsidy, provided in cash and funded out of general revenue, aims at covering their subsistence costs. Since 2008, Timorese citizens over 60 years of age or with a proven inability to work are entitled to a benefit of $30 per month. In 2010, the support subsidies provided USD 29 million to 82 000 beneficiaries;  
  • In March 2008, the Government of Timor-Leste, together with United Nations agencies (UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNIFEM and IOM) has launched a conditional cash transfer programme called the “Bolsa Mae” (Mother Purse) programme. This programme, enables poor households headed by women to cope with hardships, and provides cash payments to eligible beneficiaries on the condition that the identified child attends and successfully completes each level of schooling.

In 2010, with the technical support of the ILO, the Council of Ministers of Timor-Leste adopted a Draft Law aimed at revising the current Labour Code (Draft Law n.º 39/2010), which defines the general principles and the legal regime applicable to individual labour and industrial relations, as well as possible sanctions on instances of infringements. This revision, which is still to be adopted by the Parliament, should reaffirm the provisions of the 2002 Labour Code (Regulation of the UNTAET n.º 2002/5) while adapting these to current labour relations in the country.

The Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS) has adopted, together with the ILO regional office in Asia, the 2008-2013 Decent Work Country Programme for Timor-Leste. The programme seeks to address the challenges of political crises, rural poverty, gender disparity in employment, and youth unemployment, which in turn supports the achievement of national development priorities as defined in the Programme of the IV Constitutional Government for 2007-2012.

In the framework of the South-South Cooperation project, which involves the ILO and the Governments of Brazil and Timor-Leste, the ILO has supported the Inter-ministerial Working Group appointed by the Ministry of Social Solidarity to contribute to the establishment of a social security system in Timor-Leste.  At the end of 2010, the Ministry of Social Solidarity decided to introduce a Transitional Social Security Scheme, which is currently being implemented. It will guarantee the basic social protection needs of civil servants and their dependent family members. The Transitional Social Security Scheme is to be replaced by a universal contributory social security system by 2016.