The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) has announced the launch of a pilot project that will provide social security to the capital’s self-employed tuk-tuk drivers. The drivers will be eligible for public health insurance from April 1 onwards.

The pilot is part of the NSSF’s plan to formally integrate informal workers into the scheme.

This assertion was made on March 27 at the outreach workshop on the pilot scheme of the healthcare services to the self-employed individuals, as the NSSF signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the NGO GRET Cambodia on the expansion.

“This pilot project will support the future expansion of the project to all self-employed individuals. This is an important step in the provision of social protection policies,” said NSSF director-general Ouk Somvithya.

The NSSF and GRET, supported by the French development agency AFD, have co-implemented a project called SPIN – Social Protection: Innovation for the Informal Sector – which includes many elements such as the development of a website, financial risk assessment, the development of an NSSF information centre, and a strategy for educating the public.

NSSF deputy director-general Heng Sophannarith told The Post that the MoU would enable the two signatories to study the scope of the expansion of coverage to the self-employed, as well as other individuals who did not have access to insurance in Phnom Penh.

“The signing of the MoU will serve as a bridge to help the NSSF expand its coverage. This will enable the fund to offer healthcare and income stability to more and more Cambodians,” he said.

He expressed his hope that all concerned parties will be committed to achieving the MoU’s objectives.

GRET noted that in order to register for the scheme, tuk-tuk drivers need to bring their national identity cards and vehicle identification cards to the NSSF headquarters. Their monthly contribution fee has been set at 15,600 riel (around $3.85).

“After paying the contribution for two consecutive months, they will be able to access medical services in health centres accredited by the NSSF as well as maternity and emergency services. This pilot project aims to achieve an integrated social security system for informal sector workers such as tuk-tuk drivers and domestic workers,” it said.

Seng Hour, who has been a tuk-tuk driver for five years, said he was pleased that he and his fellow drivers now had the opportunity to access healthcare insurance and social security.

He added that tuk-tuk drivers faced several risks to their health and incomes, whether from illness or traffic accidents. He hoped the NSSF would provide good service and that many drivers would sign up.

“If the monthly contribution fee remains at 15,600 riel, tuk-tuk drivers will be able to afford to pay it. We are slightly concerned that we will not be able to access the services, as we have heard rumours that some of the service providers make it difficult,” he said.

Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) president Vorn Pov said the signing of the MOU is a significant step in extending social protection to members of the informal economy.

“The NSSF protection differs from the programmes enjoyed by formally employed workers, many of whom are provided with healthcare, occupational risk insurance and pension funds,” he added.

Pov noted that according to the MoU, the self-employed individuals who sign up will receive access to a healthcare fund, but not to occupational risk insurance or a pension fund.

He called on the government to consider providing full access to social protection to all members of the informal economy.

“I would like to see the scope of the NSSF encapsulate every individual across the Kingdom,” he said.