South Africa could learn a lot from the seamless way that China integrates different social protection benefits for its citizens. “It is particularly impressive how they have managed to bring a host of different social service offerings to the indigent, old, unemployed as well as other grants under one roof.
But equally, they expressed a need to learn how we have managed to make the Unemployment insurance Fund to be so successful and we gladly shared our experiences.“This underscores our visit to exchange knowledge and share best practice in the areas of social security benefits,” she said.
This was the sentiment expressed by South Africa’s Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant today (August 26) after she paid a visit to the Social Security Service Center in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Tianjin, a city that is about 100 kilometres outside Beijing.
Amid a myriad of social security benefits in South Africa, the Department of Labour manages the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the Workmen’s Compensation Fund and also funds for the (re)training of retrenched workers by companies in distress, another point that the Chinese found particularly interesting. Other social security benefits are managed by South African Social Security Agency.
Oliphant said the department wanted to integrate social benefit schemes under its administration and improve on their operational efficiency. She said the key aspect the department wanted to learn from Chinese counterpart, was in the area of monitoring mechanisms in the claims and payments chain. “I hope that this visit will allow us as a country to send our officials to further look into your monitoring systems. As a country we need to forge partnerships and enhance co-operation , while building on the Brics’ agreements,” Oliphant said.
She also said if the department were to go ahead and propose some of these systems, it would consult with unions particularly because monies from the funds like the UIF and compensation belong to the workers. She was also particularly impressed with the paperless operation which minimised the risk of fraud and corruption while at the same time ensuring that the services can be delivered with extreme efficiency.
One of the officials said that because of these efficiencies, China is able to pay benefits just 15 days after claim has been lodged. The Chinese also say that they save a lot of money for medical treatment as most of the service providers are networked with the department and it is easy for them to compare the prices and take the best from the approved providers.
The Tianjin City Social Security Centre manages about 9,8 million security cards in the municipality of 10 million people. The centre has consolidated its security cards into one for both contributions of employees and civilians.The centre has a total staff of 1 250 and 21 satellite branches.
The centre manages 100-billion Yuan (1$ = 6,12 RMB / local currency) and uses state-of-the-art technology where paper is almost minuscule, mainly used for reference in cases of disputes and judicial prosecutions.
Fascinating about China is that unlike in South Africa where social security is handled by Labour Department and Social Development separately, in China social security for both workers ‘ needs and citizens’ requirements are consolidated under the Social Security Centre and its branches which manages a single card for all the social security needs. Oliphant promised that whatever would have been learnt in China would be implemented in South Africa taking into consideration the local needs.