Examples of multilateral social security agreement
Most social security agreements are bilateral, involving two countries. However, there are some notable examples of agreements to which many countries are party to. Some examples of good practices in coordinating multilateral social security agreements can be found in all four corners of the world, in the EU as well as in the Caribbean, the Gulf Region, Latin America and western Africa.
EU regulations on the coordination of social security systems
The EU regulations on the coordination of social security systems constitute the most complete and extensive multilateral agreement in existence, applying to all 27 member States of the EU as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and covering all nine branches of social security. The agreement also responds to the five objectives of social security agreements and covers all nationals of the participating States, refugees and stateless persons previously covered in the EU, as well as all members of their families and their survivors. The regulations establish, amongst others, different infrastructures in order to support the administration, implementation and regulation of the agreement. These include the Administrative Commission for the Coordination of Social Security Systems, assisted by a technical Commission for Data Processing and Audit Board and a tripartite Advisory Committee for the Coordination of Social Security Systems.
The scope of the EU regulations on the coordination of social security systems comprises sickness benefits, maternity and equivalent paternity benefits, old age benefits, survivors’ benefits, benefits in respect of accidents at work and occupational diseases, death grants, unemployment benefits, pre-retirement benefits, and family benefits. Moreover, except for some specified schemes, the regulation also applies to both general and special social security schemes, contributory or non-contributory, including schemes based on employer liability and some forms of social assistance. This extensive coverage makes the EU regulations the most comprehensive multilateral social security agreement that exists. This is due, certainly to the EU’s political and economic context, having a long-term experience in regional policy making and sufficient administrative resources to draft a clear and applicable strategy as well as the necessary infrastructures for its implementation.
The principle gap of the EU social security agreement remained in the difficulty of exporting benefits to third states. For example, a non EU national, when moving to a third State, presumably his or her country of origin, could have not been allowed to have their benefits exported. However, as of December 13th 2011, on decisions taken by the European parliament, non EU nationals working in members States of the EU social security agreement are entitled to the same coverage as EU nationals. The directive ensures that non-EU workers will be able to receive their pensions when moving back to their home country under the same conditions and at the same rates as the nationals of the Member State concerned. However, Member States could apply restrictions to workers with contracts of less than 6 months' duration. For non-EU citizens admitted to follow a course of study, family benefits could also be further restricted. Member States will also be able to restrict access to public services, such as public housing, to those foreign workers who have jobs.
CARICOM Agreement on Social Security
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is a regional organization consisting of 14 countries of the Caribbean region. The CARICOM Agreement on Social Security was agreed upon in 1996 and since that time ratified by 13 countries. A Protocol was concluded in 2009, amending two of the agreements provisions, and ratified by four countries. The CARICOM Agreement does not include an administrative arrangement and only a single administrative body, named ‘The Committee’, charged with settling all administrative concerns.
The CARICOM Agreement responds to all five of the social security agreement objectives and comprises all employed and self-employed persons who are or have been subject to the social security legislation of any of the signatory states and territories, to their dependents and survivors, without regard to nationality. Its material scope covers old-age and retirement benefits, disability benefits, survivor pensions and disablement and death pensions resulting from employment injuries.
Although some difficulties have been encountered, particularly concerning the interpretation of certain provisions, the CARICOM Agreement is an important tool in a region high labour mobility and demonstrates the feasibility of multilateral agreements among non-industrialized countries with small populations.
Unified Law on Insurance Protection Extension of the GCC
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) consists of six countries bordering the Arabian/Persian Gulf, a region where there is a significant movement of workers. Yet, most countries in the region restrict social security coverage to their own nationals. To address this issue, the GCC implemented the Unified Law on Insurance Protection Extension for Citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council States Working outside Their Countries in Any of the Council Member States in 2006. Unlike other multilateral agreements which define specifically the terms and conditions of social security agreements, the Unified Law on Insurance Protection Extension of the GCC proposes social security models for possible consideration.
The Unified Law includes provisions for long-term benefits for old-age and retirement, disability, sickness and death of a family member under the social security schemes of the GCC member States. Those who are entitled to this coverage are nationals of a GCC member-state, workers employed in another GCC member-state, individuals subject to the social security legislation of their country of work if they were nationals of that country, and individuals subject to the social security legislation of their country of nationality if the employment were performed in that country.
The Unified Law provides solutions for social security agreements in a region where traditional multilateral agreement may not be feasible. Unfortunately, it has not overcome the difficulty of coverage for third-State nationals, composing the majority of the migrant work force of the region.
Ibero-American Multilateral Convention on Social Security
Ibero-American Multilateral Convention on Social Security is the newest multilateral agreement to come into effect. It has been signed by two European countries and 12 Latin American countries of which 11 have ratified the Convention and three have signed the Administrative Arrangements. The Conventions operations are overseen by a Technical Administrative Committee. The Convention replaces a network of social security agreements among Latin American Countries.
The Convention responds to the five objectives of social security agreements and covers all persons who are who have been subject to the social security legislation of any of the signatory states as well as to their family members deriving rights from them. The Convention includes benefits in cash in the event of disability, old age, death of a family member and employment injury (work accidents and occupational diseases). The Convention applies to all schemes either general or special and benefits in kind relating to branches already looked out for by benefits in cash are excluded.
The Ibero-American Multilateral Convention on Social Security is of far-reaching importance by the number of persons potentially covered. Unfortunately, to be fully effective countries must ratify the Convention as well as the Administrative Arrangement, which has been done by only three countries.
CIPRES Multilateral Convention on Social Security
The Inter-African Conference on Social Insurance (CIPRES) consists of 15 French speaking countries in western and central Africa and the Indian Ocean. The CIPRES Multilateral Convention on Social Security was signed in 1996 by 14 member-states of which five have ratified.
The Convention responds to the five objectives of social security agreements and includes all workers, members of their families and their survivors, who are nationals of a party to the Convention and who are or have been subject to the social security scheme of any of the parties. Both in cash or in kind benefits are included in the Convention in the case of old age, disability, death of a family member, employment injury, maternity or sickness, including family allowances, provided under all statutory social security schemes.
Unfortunately, the principal migrant receiving countries of the region, which are also the wealthiest in the Region – Cameroon, Gabon, Senegal - have not ratified the CIPRES Convention on social security. Hence, the CIPRES Convention can only have marginal effects.
Multilateral agreements on social security offer many advantages because they allow for many countries to coordinate standards and rules for the administration of social security at one time. Also they ensure the equal treatment of workers, unaffected by nationality. Because of the comprehensiveness of these types of agreements, workers well-being as well as their families is looked out for and many branches of social security can be covered, forwarding the Social protection floor initiative’s idea of universal coverage comprising all nine branches of social security. Despite the advantages of multilateral agreements, the administrative complexity and weight as well as economic challenges hinder to the scope of their success.