The Social Security System (SSS) has earned an international citation from the world’s leading association of social security institutions for the various SSS programs launched in recent years to promote inclusive growth by targeting informal sector (IS) workers and hard-to-reach rural areas of the country.

SSS Senior Vice President for Administration Group May Catherine Ciriaco said the International Social Security Association (ISSA), which has over 330 member organizations from more than 160 countries, honored the SSS for the several programs under its “Moving towards Inclusive Growth” project.

“The SSS is part of the select group of seven organizations, as well as the lone Philippine institution, that received a Certificate of Merit with Special Mention for 2015,” said Ciriaco, who represented the SSS during the ISSA Good Practice Awards for Asia and the Pacific held in Oman on November 2.

The ISSA international jury lauded the SSS for its “innovative and progressive approach to extending coverage in this difficult sector, involving good coordination with local government structures and the communities involved,” adding that the SSS’ strategy “provides a basis for future development.”

SSS initiatives that garnered the ISSA recognition include the AlkanSSSya Program; collecting and servicing partner agent arrangements with cooperatives and microfinance institutions (MFI); Social Security Subsidy Program; coverage program for job order and contractual workers in government; and the MuniSSSipyo Collect Program for areas with scarce banking facilities.

In its paper sent to ISSA, the SSS cited the need for “creative approaches” to reach out to IS workers “that recognize the irregularity of their incomes and differences in the nature of their businesses,” “require partnerships with organized IS groups so that there are identified and shared responsibilities,” and “allow for ‘wholesale’ social security coverage instead of SSS going after individual IS workers on a piecemeal basis.”

Ciriaco said IS workers and residents of far-flung areas face barriers to an active SSS membership such as the lack of accessible banks and collection facilities. This led to the creation of the MuniSSSipyo Collect Program where members can pay contributions right at their local municipal office, and the accreditation of SSS partner agents to tap the organized and extensive networks of cooperatives and MFIs.

“Another creative approach undertaken by the SSS is the AlkanSSSya Program designed to fit the work habits and financial limitations of IS workers such as tricycle drivers and market vendors. AlkanSSSya units are also placed in strategic locations to remind IS workers to add to their daily SSS savings,” she said.

The AlkanSSSya made SSS membership within reach for IS workers, who can meet the required minimum SSS contribution of P330 under the program with little as P11 per day. Since the SSS has engaged the involvement of the IS groups in the AlkanSSSya Program, this helped facilitate the wider SSS coverage of IS workers and the regular remittance of their contributions to the SSS.

“Apart from ISSA, the SSS was also awarded by the Asean Social Security Association or ‘ASSA’ for the AlkanSSSya Program last September. The SSS was one of this year’s two awardees under the Innovation Excellence category, along with Cambodia’s National Social Security Fund,” Ciriaco said.

ASSA Chairman Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan presented the 2015 ASSA Recognition Award to SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr. during the 32nd ASSA Board Meeting hosted by the Central Provident Fund in Singapore from September 10 to 11.

“We are heartened by the support and recognition earned both locally and overseas of SSS campaigns for the informal sector. This further encourages us to find better and more creative ways to reach out to IS workers so that more of them can enjoy the benefits of social protection,” Ciriaco said.