SSS steps up overseas campaign, cites changes in OFW payments

The Social Security System (SSS) collected P2.8 billion in contributions from overseas Filipino workers (OFW) from January to November 2013, with the total annual collection from this sector expected to hit P3.1 billion for a 22 percent year-on-year growth.

In terms of coverage, the number of OFW-members surpassed 923,000 last year, bolstered by the agency’s sustained campaign to attract migrant workers by highlighting the value of SSS coverage, promoting reactivation of SSS membership, and setting up foreign representative offices (FROs) in countries with high OFW populations, including two new FROs in Macau and Bahrain last year.

“Over 100,000 OFWs joined as new SSS members in 2013 alone. To better serve our expanding OFW membership, we deployed more roving officers to assist SSS foreign representatives in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, and we reached out to Filipino communities in 14 major locations overseas,” said Judy Frances See, SSS Senior Vice President for Account Management and Concurrent Head of International Operations.

Last year, SSS initiated exploratory talks on proposed bilateral social security agreements (SSA) with China and the USA; and pursued its SSA negotiations with Germany, Japan and South Korea.

“OFWs often fall outside of social protection schemes in their place of employment, a situation that may leave them and their families vulnerable during times of sickness, maternity, disability, retirement and death—contingencies that are all covered by our Social Security program,” See explained. “This is supplemented by the Flexi-fund Program, a mechanism for OFWs to maximize returns on their investments and benefit from an additional layer of social security protection.”

Enrollees of the Flexi-fund Program, a provident fund type of scheme that allows OFWs paying at the maximum monthly salary credit (MSC) to save on top of their regular SSS contributions, reached 165,661 in 2013, up by eight percent from the previous year. Members’ Flexi-fund equity rose to P388.5 million as of November 2013, as compared with P330.1 million as of December 2012.

SSS reminded OFWs of changes in the Social Security and Flexi-fund programs caused by the new contribution schedule that took effect in January 2014. Starting this year, OFW contributions range from P550 based on the P5,000 minimum monthly salary credit (MSC) for OFWs, to a maximum of P1,760 per month, in line with the new P16,000 MSC ceiling and 11 percent contribution rate. The MSC refers to the amount of monthly income covered by SSS contributions.

In line with existing Flexi-fund guidelines, any amount not lower than P200 paid on top of the maximum monthly SSS contribution of P1,760 starting with the applicable month of January 2014 is automatically credited as Flexi-fund savings.

“In 2012, SSS revised the basis of its guaranteed interest rate for Flexi-fund earnings to the average rate of SSS short-term peso placements or the 91-day T-bill rate, whichever is higher, so that OFWs can generate higher income from their savings despite the prevailing low-interest environment,” See added.

As a result, quarterly interest rates on Flexi-fund earnings in 2013 ranged from 1.5 to 3.8 percent, much higher than the benchmark 91-day T-bill rate of less than 1 percent. In addition to this, an Annual Incentive Benefit (AIB) totaling 90 percent of net investment earnings is distributed to all qualified members within the first quarter of the following year. In 2012, the declared Flexi-fund AIB credited to the accounts of qualified members reached P12.54 million.

– Sigfredo Ibay, sss.gov.ph

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