Public Liability and Worker Compensation in Southeast Asia

At CXC Global, we work with many different types of businesses and business sectors to assist them with compliance in many countries across the globe. During this journey we face many interesting obstacles such as, in this case, how to insure workers to a level which is compliant in the eyes of the end client and of course, our own. It might strike you as obvious why some countries are better set-up than others to give companies reasonable options to insure their employees and businesses alike against risk; but what about those countries that have inherent socioeconomic issues? So this got me thinking about the obstacles which are preventing SEA countries from reaching an egalitarian or even effective compensation system and what procedures might assist countries in attaining this level of comfort.

Insurance is one of the most prominent constituents of every country’s economy. Its stability directly influences the effective operation of public liability worldwide. The Office of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) comprises 29 member countries, including the Asian and pacific regions.

A comprehensive study revealed several systemic problems with viable recommendations for improving the devastated insurance system in Southeast Asia. The results finding that the employment injuries (EI) dramatically improves with the inclusion of three vital functions:
Prevention encourages the improvement in occupational health and safety; it actively promotes the implementation of awareness-raising and prevention activities.
Rehabilitation facilitates the continued employment of valuable workers. It also strengthens the employer/employee relationship, while increasing the productive efforts of its workers.
Compensation is an equitable expectation of every employee and the lawful responsibility of every business owner.

But since July 1997 (The Asian financial crisis), economic chaos caused widespread suffering in the Asian region. A lack of prudent, reliable supervision promoted the development of inherent weaknesses, short-sighted policies and ineffectual procedures. The unstable economies of Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand stem from these various internal causes.

So what are the obstacles between where we are now and fair and stable insurance practices that face businesses and workers in these countries?

Obstacles to an Egalitarian OSH (Occupation Safety and Health) System:
* Countries have different stages of industrial development, which interfere with the development of an OSH system.
* Current OSH systems have no power to enforce compensation laws. Workers work in hazardous environments, without redress in cases of injury, disease, or death.
* Filing claims is a complicated, humiliating and dehumanizing process.
* Bureaucracy hinders the progress of the applications; acceptable diagnoses of occupational diseases must originate from a select few medical institutions, which habitually include lengthy procedures.
* In cases of dispute, the worker must apply for arbitration to confirm the labour relationship. These cases typically end up in court, victimizing the workers and families further.
* Ignorance of laws, rights and procedures
* Owners and businesses stifle the legal process and circumvent their responsibilities, by blocking access to needed records.

Implementation of Effective Procedures to gain momentum towards a stronger system:
* Document and report all accidents and work-related illnesses; analyse their cause to prevent any reoccurrence in the future.
* Index all disability or compensation payments; this will allow for inflation, without creating a hardship for the injured worker or family members.
* Introduce statutes or legislation regarding contributions and benefits that are legally binding. This action will prevent the disruption of programs during economic difficulties worldwide.
* Utilise workers’ organizations for support, counsel, and training.
*Introduce detailed regulations that clearly explain and describe the terminology and requirements of insurance laws, statutes, and legislation.
* Inaugurate incentives programs that honour and recognize companies showing a high regard for health and safety programs in the workplace. These awards will reinforce the company’s image and attract prospective employees.
* Establish skilled inspections that guarantee the compliance of businesses with these regulated programs. Inspectors can educate, and train business owners by familiarizing them with regulations and the reasons for their enforcement.
* On-site medical personnel can effectively prevent EI’s and maintain responsible care of injured and sick employees.
* Disseminate information effectively to formal and informal employees.
* Seek the assistance of experts through research institutions, which operate in several countries.

In the meantime, new regimes, governments and leaders who are driving a new and progressively stronger Southeast Asia will look to support their peoples by improving the system. This is no overnight fix but one we can hope assists businesses in becoming far more compliant.