Migrant workers should have the same rights as national workers when it comes to protection in the event of sickness or injury. In practice, however, social security coverage is typically limited to skilled workers leaving unskilled and irregular workers very exposed.
ILO Conventions No. 97 and No. 143 provide that migrant workers should receive the same treatment as national workers, covering such issues as injury, maternity, sickness,
invalidity, death, unemployment and family responsibilities and any other contingency.
In practice in most Asian countries social security is more likely to be available only to skilled professional migrants who are in a better position to demand proper compensation and protection. Unskilled, and particularly irregular workers, who are more likely to take the most hazardous jobs, seldom get such support.
There are some exceptions. In the Republic of Korea legally admitted foreign workers, who are skilled, are also covered by social security, though irregular migrants can also be covered for industrial accidents. And in Japan
the law provides for insurance
benefits when a worker suffers injury, disease, physical disability, or death resulting from
employment — regardless of the worker’s nationality or whether the worker’s stay
or work is legal or illegal. Elsewhere coverage is limited.
Workers also run the risk of losing entitlements to social security
benefits in their country of origin owing to their absence. Instead, contributions made by the employer on their behalf should be portable and workers should benefit from the accumulation of rights
acquired in different countries.
What the ILO can offer
The ILO has extensive expertise on all aspects of social security. The Social Security Section advises member states on ways of expanding the protection they provide to all members of the community, including migrant workers, across the full range of contingencies: basic income security, health care, sickness, old age and invalidity, unemployment, employment injury, maternity, family responsibilities and death.