Government Proposal on Social Security approved by National Parliament

The Draft Law establishing the contributory Social Security scheme, approved by the Council of Ministers in March this year, was unanimously accepted, in general, in the parliamentary session on September 21st.

“For the first time since the restoration of independence, we are proposing to directly associate social rights and duties, with the construction of the true meaning of citizenship,” said the Minister of Social Solidarity, Isabel Guterres, in presenting the diploma to the deputies.

The Government’s proposal will now be examined in detail by Committee “F” from the Parliament before it is submitted to a final vote, within 30 days. The analysis by the Committee, article by article, will be conducted to ensure full understanding and adoption of several specific technical and social concepts in this proposal. According to the Parliamentary Commission that examined the diploma before the debate’s start, it is “one of the most important legislative measures to improve the Timorese people’s welfare, in the last 15 years.”

The legislation on the Social Security System for Timor-Leste started being developed in 2010 by the 4th Constitutional Government, which approved the creation of the Working Group for the study and design of the Social Security System. However, since 2008, the Government has developed a set of programs and social protection measures that correspond to the rights to Social Security and Social Support. This is the case, in particular, regarding the elderly and disabled allowance, the transitional support system for State workers and their families in old age, disability and death, maternity and paternity leave (provided in the Labour Law), the Fellowship of the Mother, and the funeral transport service. The creation of the now approved contributory social security system complements the conceptual framework, which relates to the Article 56 in the Constitution of the Republic.

In these six years public consultation, disclosure, and debate promoted by the Ministry of Social Solidarity has been extensive, in order to define the system that best fits Timor-Leste. A highlight in this process was the 13th Meeting of the Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs for the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPSC), during the Community presidency, in 2015, which resulted in the Declaration of Tibar. Seizing the presence of CPSC countries in Timor-Leste, within the technical meetings that preceded the ministerial meeting, the Ministry of Social Solidarity organized the seminar on “The Social Protection extension to everyone, and the relationship with the labour market on behalf of the Development and fight against Poverty“, which was attended by technicians from eight CPSC countries and other international experts.

The technical choices and policy system were based on an analysis of existing models in other countries, with a view to emulating their successes and avoiding their mistakes. The now approved Social Security contributory scheme is based on internationally tested principles in the field of Social Security. It is a single system (the same for all workers in all sectors of activity), contributory and mandatory (in which all are obliged to contribute to the common good). The costs are divided between the workers and their employers to pay social benefits. The surplus will be deposited in a common fund (Reserve Fund of Social Security). The goal of this Fund is to ensure that if there are fewer people contributing and more people receiving (because of an aging population, and an increase of life expectancy) the social security scheme will continue to have money to pay benefits, without asking future generations for an increased contribution to ensure them the same benefit. The system thus relies on the principles of equality, equity, and solidarity between generations or within the same generation, and within public accountability laid down in the Constitution of the Republic.

In exchange for the contribution effort (obligations), the workers and their families are protected in a few life situations through subsidies and pensions: maternity, paternity and adoption; old age, disability and death.

“It will certainly be an historic measure whose effects will shape and benefit this generation and the Timorese generations for the following 100 years or more,” concluded the Minister of Social Solidarity, in the proposal submission to the National Parliament.