Legal gap excludes 'key groups' from social security in Iraq's Labor Law

Legal gap excludes 'key groups' from social security in Iraq's Labor Law

Shafaq News/ In the central Iraqi city of Karbala, Um Hassan, a 57-year-old woman, sits on a public sidewalk selling fruits and vegetables from her stall.

"What I earn daily barely covers my living expenses," she complained to Shafaq News Agency correspondent, adding that enrolling in social security hasn't helped her much.

"I can't afford to save or contribute monthly to the program's fund. That's why I haven't signed up, like many other street vendors around me," explained Um Hassan.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani announced on December 3, 2023, that the Retirement and Social Security Law for private sector workers has come into effect. This law, passed by the Iraqi Parliament in May last year, is a crucial part of promised economic reforms to protect workers' rights.

However, many daily wage workers and private sector employees, like Aliya, a 38-year-old from Baghdad, face issues as their companies haven't registered them under the new law.

"The company I work for doesn't sign us up for social security. If we complain, we risk losing our jobs," she told Shafaq News Agency. Aliya said her case is not unique as it was common in "many other private companies."

She explained that workers want social security coverage, but some companies refuse to deduct monthly contributions.

Legal experts confirm a gap in the new Social Security Law No. 18 of 2023. This gap leaves daily wage earners and freelancers without the benefits formal and informal private sector workers enjoy.

They lack entities to handle their retirement deductions, unlike workers with formal contracts that secure their rights according to the law.

Legal Gap

Under Iraq's labor law, companies must fulfill their obligations to employees. Still, some workers choose not to enforce labor laws to avoid formal contracts, according to Legal expert Amir al-Daami.

"But if there's a contract and an administrative order of appointment, it can be taken to court for a ruling because the law is binding. So, the fault lies with the worker," al-Daami told Shafaq News Agency.

Regarding daily wage earners and freelancers, al-Daami said: "The labor law doesn't protect them adequately. They're vulnerable because the law doesn't cover all labor situations."

"There's a major flaw in the law. Freelancers must pay monthly social security amounts, or they won't be covered by the fund. The law needs updating to ensure freelancers' rights and keep up with global developments," stressed al-Daami.

Ahmed al-Mousawi, head of the Social Protection Authority at the Ministry of Labor, said, "when an employee leaves a job, they are responsible for paying the deductions, not the previous employer."

"If the employee stays with the company, it's the company's duty to register them and pay the first installment," Al-Mousawi explained to Shafaq News Agency.

"If the company refuses, the employee can register themselves, and the company must pay the first installment afterward," he added.

Concerns About Routine

According to legal expert Ali al-Tamimi, Law No. 18 of 2023 is crucial, with 109 articles shaping Iraq's economic system.

He argues that it addresses gaps in coverage from previous laws, aiming to include more segments of society.

"However, there is a need to break the routine that may arise when implementing the law within the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, as this law establishes an authority with branches in the provinces and a fund, which is funded by subscriptions and investments," he told Shafaq News Agency.

He noted that each eligible individual will have a file for monitoring and paying retirement deductions, equivalent to 2.5% of their earnings, leading to receiving retirement benefits.

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