Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of proposed measures seeking to establish a retirement system for Overseas Filipino Workers

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights in support of proposed measures seeking to establish a retirement system for Overseas Filipino Workers

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) supports legislative measures that seek to look after the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), specifically by providing social security and protection for their retirement.

House Bill (HB) No. 00176 or the “Overseas Filipino Workers Retirement System Act” aims to create a retirement system for OFWs. Authored by Representative Rodante D. Marcoleta and Representative Caroline L. Tanchay, the bill aims to implement a retirement system that provides OFWs retirement benefits, dependent’s pension, voluntary separation benefits, and a set retirement fund to support these benefits and similar gratuities. [1]

A similar proposed piece of legislation, HB 8574 or the “Kabayan OFW Pension Act,” introduced by Representative Ron P. Salo, also envisions providing social security and retirement system for OFWs who “find themselves without adequate protection in the twilight of their years.” The bill seeks to “promote social justice and provide adequate protection to the OFWs and their dependents against the risks of old-age, disability, sickness, death, unemployment, and other contingencies.” [2]

Beyond hailing OFWs as modern-day heroes for their contributions to the country, CHR stresses that enacting these measures into law is a more concrete way of securing a better future and uplifting the standards of living of our migrant workers and their families alike.

CHR recognises the array of challenges Filipino migrants workers face, including improper compensation, non-payment of wages, and even job loss. [3] At the same time, because of the need to support their families at home, their earnings usually go to payment of debts, children’s education, and living expenses among others. Only a small portion, about 1%, goes to personal cash savings, or capital for business at about 5%. [4] Such circumstances, including the contractual nature of most jobs, make their lives post-employment uncertain and vulnerable to many risks, including reduced employability, years after toiling in foreign lands.

At the same time, the bills’ proponents also stress that current schemes do not respond to the unique circumstances and vulnerabilities that OFWs face. The Social Security System, for example, is voluntary in nature and only matures at the age of 60 and does not allow for early retirement nor voluntary separation benefits.

CHR emphasises that, consistent with Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, social security is a human right. The Philippines is a State party to this human rights covenant and has the obligation to progressively realise this right for all.

General Comment 19 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights further explains that social security must be: available to address relevant impacts on livelihood; should be able to anticipate and cover social risks and contingencies, including old age, unemployment, sickness, and family and child support among others; adequate in both amount and duration; and accessible, especially to disadvantaged and marginalised groups without discrimination. [5]

To this end, the proposed bills—HB 00176 and HB 8574—are seen as steps toward fulfilling the government’s obligation to uphold the people’s right to social security.

It is high-time for the government to give back and protect OFWs, not only from the risks and vulnerabilities while working abroad, but also from the challenges that they will continue to face back home after helping their families and country progress economically.


[1] House Bill No. 00176, https://hrep-website.s3.ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/legisdocs/basic_19/HB00176.pdf

[2] House Bill No. 8574, https://hrep-website.s3.ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/legisdocs/basic_19/HB08574.pdf

[3] Report: Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants
After one and half year: The impact of COVID-19 on the human rights of migrants, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) Submission of Inputs, https://chr2bucket.storage.googleapis.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/08161245/Special-Rapporteur-on-the-Human-Rights-of-Migrants-After-One-and-Half-Year_The-Impact-of-COVID-19-on-the-Human-Rights-of-Migrants.pdf

[4] International Labour Office study “Empowering Filipino Migrant Workers: Policy Issues and Challenges,” http://ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_protect/—protrav/—migrant/documents/publication/wcms_201588.pdf

[5] General Comment 19 of the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/TreatyBodyExternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=E/C.12/GC/19&Lang=en